Cease-fire talks with Israel and Hamas are expected to resume on Sunday in Qatar

Relatives and supporters of the Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group attend a rally calling for their release, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, March 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

CAIRO — Stalled talks aimed at securing a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war are expected to resume in earnest in Qatar as soon as today, according to Egyptian officials.

The talks would mark the first time both Israeli officials and Hamas leaders join the indirect negotiations since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. International mediators had hoped to secure a six-week truce before Ramadan started earlier this week, but Hamas refused any deal that wouldn’t lead to a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, a demand Israel rejected. But both sides have made moves in recent days aimed at getting the talks, which never fully broke off, back on track.


Hamas gave mediators a new proposal for a three-stage plan that would end the fighting, according to two Egyptian officials, one who is involved in the talks and a second who was briefed on them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to reveal the contents of the sensitive discussions.

The first stage would be a six-week cease-fire that would see the release of 35 hostages — women, those who are ill and older people — held by militants in Gaza in exchange for 350 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Hamas would also release at least five female soldiers in exchange for 50 prisoners, including some serving long sentences on terror charges, for each soldier. Israeli forces would withdraw from two main roads in Gaza, let displaced Palestinians return to northern Gaza, which has been devastated by the fighting, and allow the free flow of aid to the area, the officials said.

Nearly one in three children under 2 years old in the isolated north have acute malnutrition, the U.N. children’s agency said Friday.

In the second phase, the two sides would declare a permanent cease-fire and Hamas would free the remaining Israeli soldiers held hostage in exchange for more prisoners, the officials said.

In the third phase, Hamas would hand over the bodies it’s holding in exchange for Israel lifting the blockade of Gaza and allowing reconstruction to start, the officials said.

Talks were expected to resume Sunday afternoon, though they could get pushed to Monday, the Egyptian officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the proposal “unrealistic” but agreed to send Israeli negotiators to Qatar. His government has rejected calls for a permanent cease-fire, insisting it must first fulfill its stated goal of “annihilating Hamas.”

Thousands of people demonstrated Saturday night in Tel Aviv to show their impatience with Netanyahu’s government and demand a deal to free hostages. Some expressed support for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s sharp criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the war and his call for a new election.

“I think that we are in a situation where they are completely right, that we have a war that is continuing well beyond what is necessary,” protester Yehuda Halper said.

Netanyahu’s office said Friday he approved military plans to attack Rafah, the southernmost town in Gaza where about 1.4 million displaced Palestinians — more than half the enclave’s population — are sheltering. Israel wants to target Hamas battalions stationed there.

Many fled to Rafah when Israel attacked Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and left another 250 hostage.

The United States and other countries have warned that a military operation in Rafah could be disastrous.

Netanyahu’s office didn’t give details or a timetable for the Rafah operation, but said that it would involve the evacuation of the civilian population. The military has said it planned to direct civilians to “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza.

“Many people are too fragile, hungry and sick to be moved again,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.