Home west asia Netanyahu Sets Terms As Gaza Peace Talks Restart

Netanyahu Sets Terms As Gaza Peace Talks Restart

The deal must not prevent Israel from resuming fighting until its war objectives -- dismantling Hamas' military and governing capabilities, as well as the return of hostages.--are met, says the Israeli Prime Minister.
Netanyahu sets terms for peace deal
Protestors demanding the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu march through the streets of Tel Aviv on Sunday, July 7. (Amir Goldstein/Reuters TV Screen grab)

CAIRO/JERUSALEM: Any Gaza ceasefire deal must allow Israel to resume fighting until its objectives are met, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday, as talks over a U.S. plan aimed at ending the nine-month-old war were expected to restart.

Five days after Hamas accepted a key part of the plan, two officials from the Palestinian militant group said the group was awaiting Israel’s response to its latest proposal.

Netanyahu was scheduled to hold consultations late on Sunday on the next steps in negotiating the three-phase plan that was presented in May by U.S. President Joe Biden and is being mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

It aims to end the war and free around 120 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

Hamas has dropped a key demand that Israel first commit to a permanent ceasefire before it would sign an agreement. Instead, it said it would allow negotiations to achieve that throughout the six-week first phase, a Hamas source told Reuters on Saturday.

But Netanyahu said he insisted the deal must not prevent Israel from resuming fighting until its war objectives are met.

Those goals were defined at the start of the war as dismantling Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, as well as returning the hostages.

“The plan that has been agreed to by Israel and which has been welcomed by President Biden will allow Israel to return hostages without infringing on the other objectives of the war,” Netanyahu said.

The deal, he said, must also prohibit weapons smuggling to Hamas via the Gaza-Egypt border and should not allow for thousands of armed militants to return to northern Gaza.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns is to meet with the Qatari prime minister and the Israeli and Egyptian intelligence chiefs on Wednesday in Doha, said a source familiar with the issue.

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Burns is also expected to visit Cairo this week, along with an Israeli delegation, Egypt’s Al Qahera News TV reported on Sunday, citing a high-ranking source.

A Palestinian official close to the talks said the proposal could lead to a framework agreement if embraced by Israel, and would end the war.

“We have left our response with the mediators and are waiting to hear the occupation’s response,” one of the two Hamas officials told Reuters.

In Israel, protesters took to the streets across the country to press the government to agree to the Gaza ceasefire deal, which would bring back hostages still being held in Gaza.

They blocked rush-hour traffic at major intersections across the country, picketed politicians’ houses and briefly set fire to tyres on the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway before police cleared the way.

In Gaza, Palestinian health officials said at least 15 people were killed in Israeli strikes.

Among them were Ehab Al-Ghussein, the Hamas-appointed deputy minister of labour whose wife and children were killed in May, and three other people killed in a strike at a church-run school in western Gaza City sheltering families, Hamas media and the Civil Emergency Service said.

The Israeli military said that after it took steps to minimise the risk of civilians being harmed there, it struck militants who were hiding in the school, as well as a facility in the vicinity where weapons were being made.

In central and northern areas of Rafah, on the southern Gaza border with Egypt, Israeli tanks deepened their raids. Health officials there said they had recovered three bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the eastern part of the city.

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