Hamas says Gaza ceasefire efforts are back at square one


Israel’s plan for an all-out assault on Rafah has ignited one of the biggest rifts in generations with its main ally. Washington held up a weapons shipment over fears of massive civilian casualties.

In a report to Congress, President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday said it was reasonable to assess that Israel had used US arms in instances “inconsistent” with international humanitarian law.

However, the administration said it still found credible and reliable Israel’s assurances that it will use US weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Indirect diplomacy has failed to end a war that health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say has killed almost 35,000 people since the Oct 7 attack. Some 1,200 people were killed in Israel and 253 taken hostage on Oct 7, according to Israeli tallies.

Ceasefire talks in Cairo broke up on Thursday with no agreement.

Hamas had said it agreed at the start of the week to a proposal by Qatari and Egyptian mediators that had previously been accepted by Israel. Israel said the Hamas proposal contained elements it cannot accept.

“Israel’s rejection of the mediators’ proposal through the amendments it made returned things to the first square,” Hamas said in Friday’s statement.

“In the light of (Israel Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu’s behaviour and rejection of the mediators’ document and the attack on Rafah and the occupation of the crossing, the leadership of the movement will hold consultations with the brotherly leaders of the Palestinian factions to review our negotiation strategy.”

“Hamas did not suspend nor withdraw from the negotiations; the occupation (Israelis) turned against the mediators’ proposal,” a senior Hamas official, Khalil Al-Hayya, said in comments to Al Araby TV published by Hamas.

Kirby said the end of the talks – which CIA Director William Burns was helping mediate – was “deeply regrettable,” but the US believed the differences were surmountable.

“We are working hard to keep both sides engaged in continuing the discussion, if only virtually,” he said.

EXPLOSIONS AND GUNFIRE

Residents described almost constant explosions and gunfire east and northeast of Rafah on Friday, with intense fighting between Israeli forces and militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Hamas said it ambushed Israeli tanks near a mosque in the east of the city, a sign the Israelis had penetrated several kilometres from the east to the outskirts of the built-up area.

Israel has ordered civilians out of the eastern part of Rafah, forcing tens of thousands of people to seek shelter outside the city, previously the last refuge of more than a million who fled other parts of the enclave during the war.

Israel says it cannot win the war without assaulting Rafah to root out thousands of Hamas fighters it believes are sheltering there. Hamas says it will fight to defend it.



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