Hamas-Israel talks at a precipice: No agreement on sight

Hamas considered the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip “unclear and ambiguous” because Israel offered to withdraw to the east of the enclave without specifying the locations.

Hamas left Cairo on Wednesday after a new day of intense negotiations with Qatar, Egypt, and the United States as mediators to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The group is now awaiting a response from the Israeli side, according to Palestinian sources familiar with the talks, as reported by the EFE news agency.

The negotiations have reached a “dangerous turning point that threatens the possibility of success and reaching a final agreement,” said the sources, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

According to these sources, the Palestinian group is “certain” that Israel “will not provide clear answers to the main issues” it is seeking: a permanent ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, and the return of displaced people to their homes.

“On this basis, Hamas has not presented any new initiative regarding the number of prisoners, which is the most important issue for Israel,” the sources said, adding that “the mediators tried to assure Hamas that its demands are acceptable to the Israeli side.”

However, “Hamas wants this to be stipulated in the agreement and not just verbal assurances,” according to the sources.

Hamas considered the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip “unclear and ambiguous” because Israel offered to withdraw to the east of the enclave without specifying the locations, while the Islamist group demands a withdrawal through specific and clear areas.

Regarding the ceasefire issue, the source highlighted that Israel did not provide any guarantee on this Hamas demand and that of all resistance factions.

“In the first phase, Hamas demands a complete suspension of military operations, provided that in the second phase, the discussion of a definitive ceasefire is included,” they added.

Despite reports that the parties had reached an agreement on the “basic points” of the truce, obstacles still exist, according to Palestinian and Egyptian sources familiar with the Cairo talks.

The mediators – Qatar, Egypt, and the United States – are trying to find a middle ground to bridge the differences and end the crisis. However, at the moment, the talks seem to be stalled, Palestinian sources maintain.

According to a Hamas statement this morning, Israel “continues to evade the obligations of this agreement, especially those related to a permanent ceasefire, the return of displaced people (from the northern Gaza Strip), and the withdrawal of military troops” from the Palestinian enclave.

Weeks of negotiations, coupled with increasing pressure from the United States and the rest of the international community, are expected to lead to a ceasefire before the start of the holy month of Ramadan, scheduled to begin on March 10 or 11 according to the lunar calendar.

But there appears to be no solid progress after four days of negotiations in Cairo, despite the “flexibility” that Hamas claimed to have demonstrated.

Israel did not participate in these Cairo meetings after Hamas claimed it could not provide a list of names of hostages still alive, citing logistical problems caused by the war.

According to leaks, some of the 134 captives are in the hands of other groups or militias isolated in the enclave, and over thirty of them may already be dead, for which Hamas blames Israeli bombings.

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