An Israeli mobile artillery

Israel: New Attempts Under Way to Reach Gaza Cease-Fire Deal With Hamas


UNITED NATIONS —  Israel says new attempts are underway to reach a cease-fire with Hamas to temporarily halt fighting in Gaza and secure the release of the 100 or so hostages still being held by the militants.

Those attempts include sending negotiators on Friday to truce talks in Paris, Israeli media reported. The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service will lead the group.

Earlier, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. Mideast envoy Brett McGurk on Thursday that the government “will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators.”

His comments came after Benny Gantz, who sits on Israel’s War Cabinet with Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said late Wednesday that new attempts are being made to reach a cease-fire deal. It was the first Israeli indication of new efforts since negotiations in Cairo among Israel, U.S., Egyptian and Qatari officials stalled a week ago.

But Gallant said release of the hostages was paramount and that unless Hamas agrees to free them, Israel will launch a ground offensive into Gaza’s southernmost town, Rafah, on the Egyptian border, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins March 10.

Rafah has been the focus of international concern for the safety of Palestinian civilians.

At the G20 group of nations meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said involved parties should prioritize reaching an agreement to release the hostages.

“The Algeria resolution has not in itself resulted in a cease-fire,” Blinken said, referring to the weeklong cease-fire in November. “The best way to do that is to do exactly what we’re doing right now, which is to work intensely on an agreement on the hostages.”

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Hamas captured about 240 hostages during its shock October 7 attack on Israel, while killing 1,200 people. About 100 hostages were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November and the Israeli military has said it believes about 30 of the remaining hostages have since died or been killed, leaving about 100 that Hamas is still holding.

While holding off on a full-scale ground attack on Rafah, Israel for days has launched airstrikes on Rafah, an area where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

The Israeli military carried out airstrikes early Thursday in Rafah, an area of the southern Gaza Strip that has been the focus of international concern for the safety of Palestinian civilians.

A Palestinian girl eats a piece of bread as people check debris on Feb. 22, 2024, following overnight Israeli air strikes in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian girl eats a piece of bread as people check debris on Feb. 22, 2024, following overnight Israeli air strikes in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said Wednesday that a rise in airstrikes in Rafah has “heightened fears that they will further hamper overstretched humanitarian operations” in the area.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Thursday that nearly 100 people had been killed by Israeli forces throughout the Gaza Strip in the past day, bringing the total in Israel’s counter-offensive to 29,410 people.

Israel’s military said Thursday its forces conducted offensives in the Zeitoun area of Gaza City, in the northern part of the strip, and in western Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

In an opinion piece first published Wednesday in the Brazilian newspaper Folha, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths urged officials in the Group of 20 industrialized countries meeting in Rio de Janeiro this week to use their political leadership and influence to help end the war in Gaza.

“The atrocities befalling the people of Gaza — and the humanitarian tragedy they are enduring — are there for the world to see, documented by brave Palestinian journalists, too many of them have been killed while doing so,” he wrote. “No one can pretend not to know.”

At the G20 meeting in Brazil, the foreign ministers were almost unanimous in their support for a two-state solution as the path to peace in the conflict, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said at the end of the summit.

“There was virtual unanimity in the two-state solution as the only solution to the conflict,” he said.

Blinken said he found “commonality” with G20 members on Gaza at the summit.

“There may be differences over tactics, and there may be differences over this Security Council resolution, but we’re trying to focus on actually getting results,” he said.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that Gaza “has become a death zone.”

“Much of the territory has been destroyed, more than 29,000 people are dead, many more are missing, presumed dead, and many, many more are injured,” he told reporters in Geneva.

WHO has worked this week with the Palestine Red Crescent Society to evacuate patients from the besieged Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis to two field hospitals in southern Gaza. Tedros said they have carried out several emergency missions.

“Around [111] sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain in the hospital,” he said.

Israeli forces raided the hospital on Thursday not long after withdrawing from it, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.

Israel has accused Hamas of operating in and under hospitals, which the militants have denied.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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