Truce before Ramadan highly unlikely in Gaza

– Gaza cease-fire talks fail to achieve any breakthrough
– Pressure grows on Israel to open more aid routes
            – Hostage crisis poses dilemma for Israel


Cairo: Hamas said Thursday that its delegation has left Cairo and that talks on a Gaza cease-fire and hostage release will resume next week, making it extremely unlikely that mediators will broker a deal before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a time of heightened prayer, reflection and charity for Muslims the world over, who hold festive nightly gatherings with family and friends after fasting ends at sundown. The lunar month is expected to begin Sunday or Monday, depending on the sighting of the moon.

The U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been trying for weeks to broker an agreement on a six-week cease-fire and the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Mediators had looked to Ramadan as an informal deadline because the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting often sees Israeli-Palestinian violence linked to access to a major Jerusalem holy site. The war already has the wider region on edge, with Iran-backed groups trading fire with Israel and the United States.

Egyptian officials had earlier said the negotiations had reached an impasse over Hamas’ demand for a phased process culminating in an end to the war. But they did not rule out a deal before Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Sunday.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Israel “refuses to commit to and give guarantees regarding the cease-fire, the return of the displaced, and withdrawal from the areas of its incursion.” But he said the talks were still ongoing and would resume next week. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

The Egyptian officials said Hamas has agreed to the main terms of such an agreement as a first stage but wants commitments that it will lead to an eventual more permanent cease-fire. They say Israel wants to confine the negotiations to the more limited agreement.

Hamas has said it will not release all of the remaining hostages without a full Israeli withdrawal from the territory. Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others captured during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel that triggered the war.

Hamas is believed to be holding the hostages deep inside its vast tunnel network, where rescue operations would be virtually impossible, and using them as human shields for its top leaders. It hopes to use them as bargaining chips to end the war on its terms.

That poses a major dilemma for Israel, which at some point may have to choose between its two main goals of bringing back the hostages and trying to annihilate Hamas.

Image courtesy of YouTube

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