Peace Talks in Cairo: Approaching Critical Point, CIA Involved

According to Hamas officials, they are considering the latest version of the truce proposal "seriously and responsibly," but reiterated the demand that any deal must include Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and an end to the war

by Sededin Dedovic
Peace Talks in Cairo: Approaching Critical Point, CIA Involved
© Ahmad Hasaballah / Getty Images

As talks on a potential hostage release and Gaza ceasefire approach a critical juncture, tensions remain high amid announcements from Hamas and repeated warnings from Israel, signaling a potential offensive on the town of Rafah if a deal is not reached, the Times of Israel reported.

While Arab and American mediators are pressing hard for a temporary ceasefire, several sources have indicated that Hamas is ready to accept the latest proposal, given assurances from the United States for a "sustainable cessation" of hostilities.

An unnamed Hamas official told Reuters negotiators from the militant group began talks in Cairo today, where officials from the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are also involved in indirect diplomatic efforts, focusing on the possibility of a ceasefire that would include a cessation of hostilities and the return of some number of hostages to Israel.

According to Hamas officials, the latest version of the cease-fire proposal is being considered "seriously and responsibly", although it reiterates the demand that any agreement must include an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and an end to hostilities - conditions that Israel has previously rejected.

The Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, citing anonymous sources, reported that US negotiators had promised a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the third and final phase, which could potentially lead to an end to the conflict.

A similar statement was relayed to Israel's Channel 12 by an unnamed Hamas source. However, an unnamed Israeli official reiterated that Israel's position remains unchanged, indicating that under no circumstances will it agree to an end to the conflict as part of a plan to release the hostages.

Protesters hold flags and signs during a demonstration calling for an hostages deal with Hamas and against the Israeli governmen© Amir Levy / Getty Images

Some media outlets suggest that this statement may have come from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The negotiated ceasefire agreement consists of several phases, with the initial phase involving the release of some hostages as a condition for a ceasefire lasting several weeks, followed by subsequent phases of releasing the remaining hostages, allowing for a more sustainable cessation of hostilities.

The conflict in the Gaza Strip began on October 7 when Hamas launched a surprise attack, which resulted in the death of 1,200 people and the capture of 252 hostages. Since then, more than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed and more than 77,000 wounded in Israeli military operations, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

A senior Israeli official said today that Palestinian Hamas is "blocking any possibility of a ceasefire agreement" by insisting on a complete end to hostilities in the Gaza Strip during talks in Cairo, in the presence of international mediators.

"Reports suggesting that Israel has agreed to end the conflict as part of a prisoner exchange deal, or that Israel will allow mediation to guarantee an end to hostilities, are false. Hamas has so far not dropped its demand for an end to the conflict, blocking the possibility of an agreement being reached on the ceasefire," the official told Agence France-Presse, asking to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, a Hamas official told Agence France-Presse that there had been no progress in today's talks in Cairo, which included mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States. He added that today's talks are over, and a new round is scheduled for tomorrow.

As negotiations continue, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip remains dire, with basic services severely disrupted and civilian casualties mounting. International organizations have repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire to allow the delivery of aid and medical assistance to the affected population, but the story has been repeated for months without success.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the conflict continues, stressing the urgent need for an end to hostilities and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid.

The European Union, together with other international actors, condemned the violence in the strongest terms and called on both sides to be constructive partners in these peace talks in Cairo. However, achieving a lasting ceasefire and addressing the root causes of the conflict remain daunting challenges, with deep-seated grievances and political complexities on both sides.

The unresolved status of Jerusalem, the ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the lack of a comprehensive peace agreement continue to fuel tensions and perpetuate cycles of violence. In addition to the immediate humanitarian concerns, there is an urgent need for a broader diplomatic effort to address the core issues at the negotiations, but given that the IDF is very adamant that it must "cleanse" Rafah of Hamas, this will be very challenging. A very complex situation, and the whole world is eagerly waiting these days to see how the situation will develop.