Hamas, Israel say no progress in Gaza truce talks

No major progress achieved in negotiations in Cairo, Israeli and Hamas officials say.

Palestinians walk through the destruction left by the Israeli air and ground offensive after they withdrew from Khan Younis
Palestinians walk through destruction left by Israel's air and ground offensive after its soldiers withdrew from Khan Younis in southern Gaza on April 7, 2024 [Ismael Abu Dayyah/AP]

Israeli and Hamas officials say no significant progress has been made in the latest round of Gaza truce talks in Cairo attended by representatives from mediators Egypt, Qatar and the United States.

“There is no change in the position of the occupation and, therefore, there is nothing new in the Cairo talks. … There is no progress yet,” a Hamas official, who asked not to be named, told the Reuters news agency on Monday, shortly after reports quoting Egyptian sources said headway had been made.

Israel’s Ynet news outlet cited an unidentified Israeli official as saying there had been “nothing dramatic” in the talks.

“We still don’t see a deal on the horizon. The distance is still great, and there has been nothing dramatic in the meantime,” the official said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz described the Cairo talks as the closest the sides have come to a deal since a November truce under which Hamas freed dozens of hostages.

“We have reached a critical point in the negotiations. If it works out, then a large number of hostages will come home,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

The US said that negotiators had presented Hamas with a proposal for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal, but that it was up to the Palestinian militant group to decide.

“Where we are now is that a proposal has been presented to Hamas, and we are waiting on Hamas’s response,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“Now it’s going to be up to Hamas to come through.”

Much of the international community has expressed outrage over the Palestinian death toll and humanitarian crisis arising from Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza since October 7, according to Palestinian officials.

Israel launched its assault on Gaza in response to Hamas-led attacks on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

Hamas seized 253 people at that time and took them back to Gaza. Of those, 133 captives remain, and negotiators have spoken of about 40 going free in the first stage of a prospective deal with Hamas.

Israel’s army says more than 600 of its soldiers have been killed in combat.

Delegations set to return to Cairo

Israel and Hamas sent teams to Egypt on Sunday after the arrival on Saturday of CIA Director William Burns, whose presence underlined rising pressure from the White House for a deal that would reach a truce, free captives held in Gaza and get aid to isolated civilians.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said the fact that talks have not broken down was a positive development.

“There is apparently a ceasefire framework that the Israelis are now taking back to the war cabinet and Hamas is discussing within the movement,” he said.

Khan said senior Israeli politicians are actually talking about the potential of the talks.

“Finance Minister [Bezalel] Smotrich is calling for a meeting to get an update on what this framework is, and Yair Lapid, head of the opposition, says he’s willing to give the government a safety net to be able to come to some sort of deal,” Khan said.

Two Egyptian security sources and state-run Al-Qahera News said on Monday that some progress had been made in the Cairo talks.

The security sources said both sides had made concessions that could help pave the way for a deal for a truce that – as proposed during previous talks – would be staggered over three stages with the release of the remaining Israeli captives and a long-term ceasefire addressed in the second stage.

The concessions relate to the release of Israeli captives and Hamas’s demand for the return of displaced residents to northern Gaza, they said.

Mediators suggested the return could be monitored by an Arab force in the presence of Israeli security deployments that would later be pulled back, they added.

Delegations left Cairo, and consultations were expected to continue within 48 hours, the sources and Al-Qahera said.

‘Mixed messages’

Luciano Zaccara, a professor of Gulf politics at Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Center, told Al Jazeera that while mixed messages were emerging from Egypt, the Israeli government has made it clear the war will go on.

The weekend pullout of Israeli forces from Gaza is aimed at reorganising troops for their future mission in Rafah, “meaning that Israel has not stopped pursuing the main objective, which is to destroy Hamas completely”, Zaccara said.

“But the government is aware of the mounting pressure from captives’ families who joined forces with those seeking the prime minister’s resignation,” he added.

“It seems like something is moving inside Israel to reach an agreement. They have to show they are working towards a solution, but we have to wait for the next 48 hours to see if a deal is reached,” Zaccara said.

Six months into its offensive on Gaza, Israel has devastated the enclave and left most of its 2.3 million people homeless and many at risk of famine.

The country is under global pressure to ease Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and drop its plans to storm Rafah, a town on the southern border with Egypt packed with more than a million displaced Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that a date has been set for the Israeli offensive on Rafah. He did not disclose when it would be.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies