Shropshire Star

Top Hamas leader ‘in Cairo for talks on war in Gaza’

Egypt and Qatar have played a key role as mediators between the militant group and Israel.

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Hamas leader

Hamas has said its top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, has arrived in Cairo for talks on the war in Gaza.

Egypt, along with Qatar – where Mr Haniyeh is believed to be based – have both played a key role as mediators between the militant group and Israel since the war that began with Hamas’ October 7 attack.

Hamas said Mr Haniyeh would discuss the war with Egyptian officials after having arrived on Wednesday in Cairo, but did not provide details.

Negotiations are under way on another ceasefire and the release of more hostages held by the militant group, but the two sides were believed to be far from an agreement.

The militant group is putting up stiff resistance in the territory after more than 10 weeks of heavy Israeli bombardment and fierce urban combat that has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians.

Mr Haniyeh’s visit comes a day after Hamas fired rockets that set off air raid sirens in central Israel.

That was a show of strength during a war that has devastated much of northern Gaza and driven some 1.9 million Palestinians – nearly 85% of the population – from their homes.

Israel Palestinians
Palestinians unload wheat sacks from a humanitarian aid truck into a grocery store under guard by Hamas fighters in Rafah (AP)

Israel has called on the rest of the world to blacklist Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but the sides have recently relaunched indirect talks.

Meanwhile defence minister Yoav Gallant said Israeli forces were entering Hamas’ tunnel network in northern Gaza as part of a “final clearing” of militants from the region.

The densely built urban north – including Gaza City, the territory’s largest – has seen ferocious fighting, with Palestinian health officials reporting dozens of people killed in bombardments in recent days.

Mr Gallant said in southern Gaza, operations will take “months”, including the military’s assault on Khan Younis, the enclave’s second-largest city.

Destroyed homes
Palestinians inspect a house after it was hit by an Israeli bombardment on Rafah (AP)

“We will not stop until we reach our goals,” he said.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll since the start of the war had risen to more than 19,600. It does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths.

Hamas and other militants abducted some 240 people in the October 7 attack. They are still holding an estimated 129 captives after most of the rest, mainly women and children, were released last month.

Israel’s military says 131 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive. Israel says it has killed some 7,000 militants, without providing evidence, and blames civilian deaths on Hamas, saying it uses them as human shields when it fights in residential areas.

UN Security Council members are negotiating an Arab-sponsored resolution to halt the fighting in some way to allow for an increase in desperately needed humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.

A vote on the resolution, first scheduled for Monday, was pushed back again until Wednesday as talks continued in the hopes of getting the US to abstain or vote “yes” on the resolution after it vetoed an earlier ceasefire call.

France, the United Kingdom and Germany – some of Israel’s closest allies – joined global calls for a ceasefire over the weekend. In Israel, protesters have called for negotiations with Hamas to facilitate the release of scores of hostages still held by the group.

Israel says it will keep fighting until it has removed Hamas from power, dismantled its armed wing and returned all the hostages.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has called on Israel to take greater steps to spare civilians but has continued to provide diplomatic and military support for the offensive.

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