Top Qatari official urges Israel and Hamas to do more to reach a cease-fire deal

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The White House said Sunday that U.S. President Joe Biden spoke again with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. pressure mounts on Israel and Hamas reach a deal that would free some Israeli hostages and establish a ceasefire within nearly seven months war in Gaza.

The White House said Biden reiterated his “clear position” as Israel plans to invade Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah, despite global concern over more than a million Palestinians fleeing shelter there. United States opposes invasion on humanitarian grounds, straining relations between the allies. Israel is among the countries that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit as he returns to the Middle East Monday.

Biden also stressed that progress in delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza be “sustained and strengthened,” according to the statement. The call lasted just under an hour and they agreed that it was Hamas’ responsibility to accept the latest offer for negotiations, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. There was no comment from Netanyahu’s office.

A senior official of key intermediary Qatar, meanwhile, urged Israel and Hamas to be “more committed and more serious” in the negotiations. Qatar, home to Hamas headquarters in Doha, was instrumental, alongside the United States and Egypt, in brokering a deal. brief interruption of fighting in November, which led to the release of dozens of hostages. But in a sign of frustration, Qatar said this month that it reevaluate your role.

An Israeli delegation is expected in Egypt in the coming days to discuss the latest proposals in negotiations, and senior Hamas official Basem Naim said in a message to The Associated Press that a delegation from the militant group would also visit Cairo. Egypt’s state satellite television channel Al Qahera News said the delegation would arrive on Monday.

The remarks of Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari in interviews with the liberal daily Haaretz and the Israeli public channel Kan were published and broadcast on Saturday evening.

Al-Ansari expressed disappointment with Hamas and Israel, saying each side had made decisions based on political interests and not with the well-being of civilians in mind. He did not reveal details of the talks, saying only that they had “effectively stopped,” with “both sides firmly entrenched in their positions.”

Al-Ansari’s remarks come after an Egyptian delegation discussed with Israeli officials a “new vision” for an extended ceasefire in Gaza, according to an Egyptian official, who spoke under on condition of anonymity to freely discuss developments in the situation.

The Egyptian official said Israeli officials were willing to discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as part of the second phase of a deal. Israel has refused to end the war until it defeats Hamas.

The second phase will begin after the release of civilian and sick hostages, and will include negotiating the release of soldiers, the official added. The oldest Palestinian prisoners would be released and a reconstruction process would be launched.

Negotiations earlier this month focused on a six-week deal ceasefire proposal and the release of 40 civilian and sick hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

Demonstrators protest against the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the militant group Hamas in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, April 27, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

A letter written by Biden and 17 other world leaders urged Hamas to immediately release its citizens. In recent days, Hamas has released new videos of three hostagesapparent pressure for Israel to make concessions.

Growing pressure on Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire deal also aims to avert an Israeli attack on Rafah, the border town with Egypt where more than half of the 2.3 million residents from Gaza seek refuge. Israel has massed dozens of tanks and armored vehicles. The planned incursion sparked global alarm.

“It only takes one small strike to force everyone out of Palestine,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia, adding that he believed an invasion would take place within a few days.

But White House national security spokesman John Kirby told ABC that Israel “assured us that it would not enter Rafah until we had an opportunity to actually share our views and concerns with them. So we’ll see where this goes.

The reinforcement of Israeli troops could also be a means of pressure on Hamas during the negotiations. Israel considers Rafah to be the last major Hamas stronghold. He promises to destroy the group’s military and government capabilities.

Aid groups have warned that an invasion of Rafah would worsen the already desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza, where hunger is widespread. Around 400 tonnes of aid arrived at the Israeli port of Ashdod on Sunday – the largest shipment ever made by sea via Cyprus – according to the United Arab Emirates. It was not immediately clear how or when it would be delivered to Gaza.

Also on Sunday, World Central Kitchen announced that it would resume operations in Gaza on Monday, ending a four-week suspension following Israeli military drone strikes. killed seven of its aid workers. The organization has 276 trucks ready to enter through the Rafah crossing and will also send trucks to Gaza from Jordan, a statement said. It is also examining whether the Ashdod port can be used to unload supplies.

The war was sparked by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities, who say another 250 people were taken hostage . Hamas and other groups are holding around 130 people, including the remains of around 30, according to Israeli authorities.

Israeli retaliation against Hamas has killed more than 34,000 people, most of them women and children, according to Gaza health authorities, who do not distinguish between civilians and combatants in their count.

The Israeli army blames Hamas for civilian losses, accusing it of establishing itself in residential and public areas. He claims to have killed at least 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.


Jon Gambrell reported from Jerusalem and Samy Magdy from Cairo. Ellen Knickmeyer, Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Washington.


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