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Hamas official: Cairo talks ‘last chance’ for Israel to free hostages

80,000-100,000 Gazans crossed into Egypt since October 7: envoy
Image of Refugee camp after Israeli strike (Oct 31, 2023)

A senior Hamas official said Tuesday that a delegation from the Palestinian group was due to leave for Gaza truce talks in Cairo, warning it would be Israel’s “last chance” to release its hostages.

“This may be the last chance to recover the Israeli captives alive,” said the official, requesting anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

The official said the Hamas negotiators had cancelled plans earlier Tuesday to travel from Doha to Cairo for negotiations after Israel’s incursion across the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza, but that they would leave “shortly” for Egypt.

The official warned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “decision to invade Rafah” indicated that “he and his army have made the decision to let the prisoners (hostages) die”.

“This will be the last chance for Netanyahu and the families of the Zionist prisoners to return their children,” the official said.

Otherwise, the hostages’ “fate will be the same as the fate of pilot Ron Arad”, he said of an air force navigator shot down over Lebanon in 1986. Arad was believed to have been held by Shiite groups there and is now presumed dead.

According to Israeli officials, talks were due to take place later Tuesday.

The new round of negotiations comes after Hamas announced late Monday it had accepted a ceasefire plan proposed by Egyptian and Qatari mediators, saying the ball was now in Israel’s court.

Despite months of shuttle diplomacy, mediators have so far failed to broker a new truce like the week-long ceasefire that saw 105 hostages released last November, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Previous negotiation efforts had stalled in part because of Hamas’s demand for a lasting ceasefire and Netanyahu’s vows to crush its remaining fighters in Rafah.

Hostage families have been among those pressing through repeated protests for Israel to reach a deal with Hamas to bring home the captives.

On Tuesday, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said it had sent messages to the ambassadors of other governments with citizens among the captives to pressure Israel to strike a deal with Hamas for their return.

“This is the time to exert your influence on the Israeli government and all other parties concerned to ensure that the agreement comes through which will finally bring all our loved ones home,” the message said.

During the October 7 attack that sparked the brutal war in Gaza, Palestinian militants seized around 250 hostages, who included foreigners and dual nationals, among them US, Thai, French, British and Russian citizens.

Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against the group has killed at least 34,789 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

 

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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