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Egyptian sources say Gaza ceasefire talks to resume in Cairo

FILE PHOTO: Palestinians carry bags of flour they grabbed from an aid truck near an Israeli checkpoint, as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Kosay Al N

CAIRO (Reuters) -Gaza truce talks are due to resume in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said on Saturday, though an Israeli news outlet reported Israel would not send a delegation until it got a full list of Israeli hostages who are still alive.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said he hopes a ceasefire will be in place by the time of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts on March 10.

There was no immediate comment from Israel or the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which have been negotiating via mediators including Egypt and Qatar.

International pressure for a ceasefire has grown, with more than 30,000 Palestinians killed in Israel’s Gaza offensive, according to Gaza health authorities, and the U.N. warning that a quarter of the population are one step away from famine.

Vowing to wipe out Hamas, Israel launched the offensive in response to the group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israeli towns, in which 1,200 people were killed in Israel and another 253 abducted, according to Israeli tallies.

The Egyptian sources said Israeli and Hamas delegations were expected to arrive in Cairo on Sunday.

They said that an incident on Thursday in which more than 100 Palestinians seeking aid were killed by Israeli fire according to Gaza authorities, had not slowed down the talks, but instead pushed negotiators to hasten to preserve progress.

Israel has blamed most of the deaths on crowds that swarmed around aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over.

HOSTAGE LIST

The Egyptian sources said the parties had agreed on the duration of a Gaza truce, as well as hostage and prisoner releases, adding that the completion of the deal still requires an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Gaza and a return of its residents.

But Israel’s Ynet news, citing an unnamed senior official, reported that Israel would not be sending a delegation to the Cairo talks until it received a full list of hostages held in Gaza who were alive.

According to the report, the central issue being worked on was how many hostages would be released from Gaza, and in turn how many Palestinians would be freed by Israel in exchange for each of them.

“Until clear answers are given, a delegation would not be leaving to Cairo,” Ynet cited the official as saying.

A Palestinian official familiar with mediation efforts did not immediately confirm the Cairo talks. “When it comes to ending the war and pulling out forces out of Gaza, gaps remain unbridged,” the official said.

Speaking to reporters about a ceasefire as he left the White House on Friday, Biden said: “We’re not there yet.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki echoed the hope that a ceasefire would be agreed in time for Ramadan.

“We hope that we will be able to achieve a ceasefire before Ramadan, we hope to be able to achieve one today, yesterday, but we have failed,” Maliki, who represents the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, said during a visit to Turkey.

Israel killed at least 92 people and wounded 156 others over the past 24 hours in its ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip, the Gaza health ministry said on Saturday.

In Beit Hanoun north of the blockaded strip, Israeli strikes killed three people who were searching for food in farmland, residents and medics said. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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