Glimmers of light in the negotiations on Gaza but the agreement is in the balance. Demonstration in Tel Aviv for the release of the hostages


By John

Glimmers of light in the negotiations in Cairo for a truce in Gaza and the release of the hostages, but the negotiations still remain in the balance and nothing is taken for granted. The optimism filtered throughout the day from the Egyptian capital – with mediators speaking of “significant progress” – was attenuated in the evening, when a senior Israeli official curbed enthusiasm by accusing Hamas of “ruining efforts” for the agreement insisting on the precondition of ending the war. The Jewish State, they warned from Jerusalem, «will under no circumstances accept the end of the war as part of an agreement for the release of its hostages.”

The issue therefore always remains the same, but the Hamas delegation that arrived in Cairo continues to discuss the general outline of the agreement with the Egyptian and Qatari mediators. In contradictory information on the progress of the talks, Barak Ravid of the website Axios reported that Hamas could agree to carry out the first phase of the agreement (the humanitarian release of hostages) without an official commitment from Israel to end the war. According to the Saudi newspaper Asharq, in exchange the Palestinian faction would have solid guarantees from the United States on the ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of the IDF from the Strip after the first two phases of the agreement and the promise that the Israeli army will not continue the fighting after the final release of the approximately 130 hostages still in Gaza. But Israel continued to urge caution throughout the day.

A source in the Jewish State stressed that they are “anxiously waiting to see Hamas's final position, but that the information has not yet arrived.” He then insisted that “in light of past experiences, even if Hamas says it is following the outline, the small details and reservations it will present could scuttle the agreement.” For this reason, so far no Israeli delegation has gone to Egypt, where it will go – it was explained – only “if there is a response from Hamas that has a horizon for negotiations”. Also Benny Gantz, the war cabinet minister, called for patience, confirming that the Palestinians have not yet given a definitive answer to the mediators. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – after having once again rejected Israel's intention to enter Rafah which would entail “unacceptable damage” – observed that at the moment “Hamas is the only obstacle to the ceasefire in Gaza”.

While one of the advisors of the political leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh, Taher Nunu, he reaffirmed that “any agreement to be reached must include a complete and total end to the aggression and the full withdrawal of the occupation from Gaza.” In the flurry of news regarding the possible agreement, the Saudi newspaper Asharq – reported by the Israeli media – hypothesized that Israel is also willing to release Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian Fatah leader sentenced to several life sentences for terrorism. As long as he goes to Gaza and not the West Bank. But there is no official confirmation of such a thorny issue in Israel. The fact is that international pressure for an agreement to be made, after Israel, is focusing on Hamas. Qatar, Times of Israel revealed, would be ready to accept the US request to expel the Hamas leadership from Doha, including Haniyeh himself, if the faction's leaders continue to reject the agreement. A request, the Washington Post said, delivered by Blinken last month.

Meanwhile, The families of the Israeli hostages in Gaza demonstrated this evening in Tel Aviv to ask the government to reach an agreement for their release. The families themselves announced it by comparing the difficult situation of the kidnapped with that of the survivors of the Shoah which will be celebrated throughout Israel from tonight until tomorrow evening. The banner chosen for the protest reads 'Never again is the time'. “In the aftermath of October 7, the phrase 'Never again' – added the organizers – took on an additional, relevant and urgent meaning.”