Negotiators expected in Cairo as Israel-Hamas war nears six-month mark

Negotiators expected in Cairo as Israel-Hamas war nears six-month mark
# 06 April 2024 11:28 (UTC +04:00)

Ahead of the talks, US President Joe Biden wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar urging them to dial up pressure on Hamas to "agree to and abide by a deal," a senior administration official told AFP on Friday night, APA reports citing France 24.

The United States, Qatar, and Egypt have engaged for months in behind-the-scenes talks to broker a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, but have made no headway since a week-long truce in November.

The White House confirmed that negotiations would occur this weekend in Cairo, but would not comment on US media reports that CIA Director Bill Burns would be attending, along with Israel spy chief David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Egypt's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Israel and Hamas, which negotiate through intermediaries, have traded blame for the lack of progress.

"This basic fact remains true: There would be a ceasefire in Gaza today had Hamas simply agreed to release this vulnerable category of hostages -- the sick, wounded, elderly, and young women," the senior Biden administration official said.

Hamas officials and Qatari mediator Al-Thani have previously accused Israel of stymying the truce with objections over the return of displaced Gazan civilians and the ratio of prisoners to hostages.

During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden pushed him to "fully empower" his negotiators to reach a deal.

A staunch backer of Israel, Biden's patience with the immense toll inflicted by the war on Gaza appears to be waning, especially after the killing of seven aid workers.

With both international and domestic outrage mounting, Biden has warned of a reassessment of US support if more is not done to protect civilians.

Allies have been pressing Biden to leverage the billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel.

More than three dozen US lawmakers on Friday signed a letter to Biden urging him to reconsider the "recent decision to authorize the transfer of a new arms package to Israel, and to withhold this and any future offensive arms transfers until a full investigation into the airstrike is completed".