“6-week truce in Gaza”, steps forward in Cairo. Fears over an Israeli military operation in Rafah


By John

A six-week ceasefire with an exchange of hostages in the hands of Hamas seems closer to the end of the negotiations in Cairo which concluded in the evening. The aim of the intense negotiations in the Egyptian capital is to reach a result before Israel’s announced military operation in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians are flocking, is triggered. Egyptian sources familiar with the talks said the mediation had already achieved what was described as “relatively significant” progress.

The focus is now on drawing up “a final draft” for a 6-week ceasefire with the guarantee of further negotiations for a permanent end to the fighting. If caution – as a Western source warned – is a must, it is nevertheless a fact that the intelligence delegations in Cairo were all of a high level.

Not only the director of the CIA William Burns, the Prime Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdelrahman Al-Thani, the head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamal. But also the leaders of the Mossad, David Barnea, and of the Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, with the addition – for the first time – of Ophir Falk, a much listened to foreign policy advisor in the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Hamas delegation – for indirect negotiations between the parties – was instead led by Khalil al-Hayya, deputy of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli delegation returned to their homeland in the evening with the aim of reporting to the political leaders. If Israel’s axiom is that only strong military pressure can bring the hostages home and defeat Hamas, the Netanyahu government cannot however ignore the growing US intolerance regarding the protection of the population in the Strip.

Without a clear and realistic plan for evacuating the population – this is the White House line – any military initiative in Rafah would be an announced humanitarian catastrophe.

«Too many civilians have been killed in the conflict in Gaza. We have been very clear on this point with Israel”, the spokesperson of the US National Security Council, John Kirby, also warned today. According to the Wall Street Journal, which cites Egyptian sources, Israel has prepared a plan involving the evacuation of civilians along the coast of Gaza and presented it to Cairo.

The plan identified 15 locations in each of which there should be 25,000 tents and medical facilities, ranging from the southern tip of Gaza City to Moassi, north of the city of Rafah. The related costs – again according to the WSJ – for Israel should be covered by the USA and the Arab countries. Further evidence of the ongoing conflict with Washington is a piece of news from the Huffington Post according to which the United States is investigating “possible war crimes” committed by Israel, despite publicly claiming the opposite. According to the same source, for months the Biden administration has been evaluating “possible violations of international laws” and also “human rights abuses that could violate American law”.

On the ground however, on the 130th day of the war, the Khan Yunis-Rafah axis, in the south of the Strip, is the one most affected by the Israeli army’s raids and close combat with Hamas militiamen. The IDF spokesperson reported that “over 30 terrorists were killed” and control of the area was “strengthened with raids on terrorist infrastructures, snipers and patrols” by Hamas.

The army then came into possession of a video, found by soldiers in Gaza, which shows Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar with his wife and two-three of his children moving from one tunnel to another in Khan Yunis. While the Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera announced that two of its journalists were “seriously injured” in Gaza by Israeli bombing.