Hamas in Cairo: Navigating Paths to Peace in the Gaza Strip

A delegation of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is in Egypt today to discuss a proposed ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip, while Israel, despite international warnings, threatens a ground offensive on the crowded town of Rafah

by Sededin Dedovic
Hamas in Cairo: Navigating Paths to Peace in the Gaza Strip
© Mohamed Hossam / Getty Images

A delegation from the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is in Egypt today, exploring the complexities of a proposed cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israel, despite international warnings, persists in its threats of a ground offensive against the densely populated town of Rafah.

Reports of deadly Israeli airstrikes continue to come from various parts of the Palestinian territory, particularly targeting the densely populated southern city, according to hospital sources and eyewitnesses. After nearly seven months of devastating conflict, the current proposal on the table is a 40-day halt to Israeli aggression in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the freedom of hostages kidnapped during the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that triggered the conflict.

A Hamas delegation, led by Khalil al-Haya, second in command in Gaza's political wing, has arrived in Egypt, a Hamas official confirmed. The initial round of negotiations is expected to begin this afternoon, with the presence of delegations from Qatar, Egypt and the United States - mediator countries.

Earlier, the website Axios announced the presence of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) William Burns at these negotiations in Cairo. Egyptian media indicated that Egyptian mediators had "reached consensus on most points", while an unnamed Hamas official suggested that several issues still needed to be resolved.

The Palestinian faction that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007 indicated on Friday that their visit to Cairo was in a "positive spirit", with the aim of continuing talks on a truce offer with Israel and to "reach an agreement".

For almost a week, the mediator states have been waiting for Hamas' response to a new ceasefire proposal. Hamas on Friday reiterated its "determination" to achieve a "complete end to Israeli aggression", the "withdrawal" of Israeli forces from Gaza and a "serious arrangement for the exchange" of Israeli hostages for captured Palestinians.

Israel has steadfastly rejected a permanent ceasefire, insisting on waging a ground offensive in Rafah, which it claims is the Islamist movement's last major stronghold, despite being home to more than a million Palestinians, many of whom have been displaced by the conflict.

"We will do whatever it takes to defeat the enemy, including Rafah," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated this week, confirming his intention to launch an offensive "with or without a ceasefire." Hossam Badran, a member of Hamas's political wing, sees Netanyahu's statements about the attack on Rafah as "a clear nullification of any possibility of a cease-fire agreement." The United States, a staunch ally of Israel, has repeatedly expressed opposition to such an attack.

Egypt confirmed on Monday that there is a new proposal for a ceasefire in the blockaded Gaza Strip. "There is a proposal on the table to reach a ceasefire in Gaza," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia.

: Sameh Shoukry© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Hamas is estimated to be holding more than 130 Israeli hostages, while Israel is holding more than 9,100 Palestinians in prisons. Hamas is demanding an end to Israel's deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Palestinian territory for any hostage and prisoner exchange deal with Tel Aviv.

In violation of the interim ruling of the International Court of Justice, Israel continues its attacks on the Gaza Strip, in which at least 34,622 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed since October 7 last year, and 77,867 people have been wounded.

The situation in the Gaza Strip remains precarious, with diplomatic efforts hovering in a delicate balance between hopes for peace and the specter of renewed violence. The proposed ceasefire, while a potential respite from the relentless hostilities, faces significant obstacles on both sides of the conflict.

For Hamas, agreeing to a ceasefire requires not only securing tangible concessions, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners, but also ensuring that the terms address the core grievances of the Palestinian population in Gaza.

The movement's credibility and legitimacy as a force of resistance depends on its ability to bring tangible improvements to the lives of Gazans, who have endured decades of occupation and blockade. On the other hand, the Israeli calculus is driven by a combination of security imperatives and political considerations.

The prospect of a ground offensive on Rafah underscores Israel's determination to neutralize the perceived threats posed by Hamas and other militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip. However, such military actions risk further escalation and international condemnation, potentially undermining Israel's long-term strategic goals.

Tensions simmer on the ground, the fate of millions of Palestinians hangs in the balance. The success or failure of diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire will have far-reaching implications for the broader dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the prospects for regional stability.