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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hamas, CIA director to hold talks in Cairo on Gaza truce

"The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.

Foreign mediators have been waiting for the Palestinian militant group to respond to a proposal to halt fighting for 40 days and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

“The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday.

Months of negotiations have stalled in part on Hamas’s demand for a lasting ceasefire and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated vows to crush the group’s remaining fighters in Rafah.

Read more: Hamas names terms for laying down arms

Blinken on Friday also reiterated Washington’s objections to the long-threatened Rafah offensive, saying Israel has not presented a plan to protect the civilians sheltering there.

“Absent such a plan, we can’t support a major military operation going into Rafah because the damage it would do is beyond what’s acceptable,” he said.

Humanitarian groups and the United Nations have also begged Israel to call off an attack on Rafah, where 1.2 million people have sought refuge.

Read more: Israel promises ‘painful blows’ to Hamas

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Friday that an incursion into the far-southern city could have dire implications.

“WHO is deeply concerned that a full-scale military operation in Rafah, Gaza, could lead to a bloodbath, and further weaken an already broken health system,” Tedros said on X, formerly Twitter.

The UN’s health agency announced it was nevertheless making contingency plans, restoring health facilities and pre-positioning supplies.

“This contingency plan is Band-Aids,” said Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative in the Palestinian territories.

“The ailing health system will not be able to withstand the potential scale of devastation that the incursion will cause.”

‘Positive spirit’

A senior Hamas official confirmed to AFP that a delegation led by Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of the group’s political arm in Gaza, would arrive in Cairo on Saturday morning.

The Palestinian militant group, which has been in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, maintains it is considering the latest truce proposal with a “positive spirit”.

But a top Hamas official accused Netanyahu of trying to derail the latest proposed Gaza truce with his threats to keep fighting with or without a deal.

“Netanyahu was the obstructionist of all previous rounds of dialogue… and it is clear that he still is,” senior Hamas official Hossam Badran told AFP by telephone.

Badran said Netanyahu’s insistence on attacking Rafah was calculated to “thwart any possibility of concluding an agreement” in the negotiations.