Urgent Gaza ceasefire talks in Egypt finish without results

The talks aimed to achieve a ceasefire in order to avoid a ground invasion in Rafah by Israel.

On Tuesday, negotiations for a Gaza ceasefire involving the U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar failed to reach an agreement, as pressure mounted on Israel to refrain from launching an attack on the southern part of the enclave, where more than a million people have been displaced.

The city of Rafah, which had about 300,000 residents before the war, is crowded with homeless people staying in tents and improvised shelters after escaping from Israeli attacks in northern Gaza during the war that has lasted over four months.

Israel claims it wants to clear Rafah of Hamas fighters and rescue Israeli captives held there, and is preparing to evacuate trapped Palestinian civilians. But no plan has been announced and aid agencies say the displaced have no other place to go in the devastated territory. Israeli tanks fired at the eastern area of Rafah overnight, creating waves of fear, residents said.

They said displaced people – dozens so far – had started to leave Rafah after Israeli shelling and air strikes in recent days.

Gaza health officials reported 133 new Palestinian deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 28,473 killed and 68,146 wounded since Oct. 7, when 1,200 people died in a Hamas incursion into Israel, starting the war. Many other people are thought to be under the debris of collapsed buildings across the densely populated Gaza Strip, much of which is in ruins.

Food, water and other basic supplies are running low and diseases are spreading. About half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now in Rafah. “Since Israel said they are invading Rafah soon…, we say our final prayers every night. Every night we say goodbye to each other and to relatives outside Rafah,” said Aya, 30, who is living in a tent with her mother, grandmother and five siblings.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held talks with CIA Director William Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani aimed at reaching a Gaza ceasefire, protecting civilians and bringing more aid into the enclave, Egypt’s state information service said.

In a statement on its website, it mentioned a “desire to keep consulting and coordinating” on the main issues, indicating that no progress was made. The Egyptian statement did not refer to Israel.

The Israeli delegation had departed Cairo for home, a Reuters reporter said. The Israeli prime minister’s office did not respond to a request for comment right away. Israel has sworn to continue fighting, for as long as it takes, until it eliminates Hamas.

A Palestinian official said earlier the sides were looking for a solution acceptable to Hamas, which “says it can only agree to a deal if it is based on an Israeli promise to end its war and withdraw its forces from Gaza”.

A Hamas official said Hamas had told the participants it does not believe Israel will not resume the war if the Israeli captives held by Palestinian militants are freed. The captives were taken in Hamas’ attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7. Getting them back is a priority for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as well as destroying Hamas, which rules the small coastal territory.

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