Negotiators meet in Egypt as Gaza conflict enters 7th month

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict enters its seventh month, international negotiators from the US, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and Hamas are meeting in Cairo in a renewed effort to broker a ceasefire agreement and secure the release of hostages. CIA director Bill Burns is reportedly holding high-level talks with Israeli Mossad chief David Barnea and officials from Egypt and Qatar.

Previous attempts at negotiations have failed, with both sides accusing the other of blocking progress. Hamas, the extremist group that runs Gaza, is demanding a comprehensive ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the return of displaced people and the exchange of hostages and prisoners.

Mounting pressure

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under increasing international pressure to reach an agreement. According to Hamas, more than 33,000 people have been killed since the start of the conflict. US president Joe Biden recently urged Netanyahu to prioritise the release of hostages and called for an "immediate ceasefire".

Pressure is also mounting within Israel. This weekend, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv to tell the prime minister he was not doing enough to free Israeli citizens held hostage by Hamas. The protest was led by opposition leader Yair Lapid, who called for immediate elections.

Small concessions

Israel appears to be buckling slightly under the pressure. On Sunday, a military spokesperson reported that Israel had withdrawn most of its ground forces from southern Gaza, although it would maintain a strategic presence in key areas. And Israel also said it would open new food corridors in the region.

But the chances of a lasting ceasefire appear slim. While Hamas is sending a delegation to the negotiations in Cairo, it has said it is not prepared to compromise. Netanyahu, meanwhile, said he would not give in to Hamas's "extreme" demands.


Israeli soldiers walk near the border with Gaza Strip in southern Israel © PHOTO MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP

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