Gaza ceasefire negotiations stall as tensions rise between Israel and Iran

Mediators have not had any meaningful contact with Hamas or Israel for more than 72 hours, sources say

An Israeli tank travels along the border with Gaza. There is no sign yet of a pause in the war. AP
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Gaza ceasefire negotiations are on hold, with no contact of any consequence being made by mediators on one side and Hamas and Israel on the other, two sources told The National on Tuesday.

The months-long on-and-off negotiations have been overshadowed by Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel on Saturday, which caused negligible damage, the sources added.

“There has been no contact in more than 72 hours between American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators and the Israelis or Hamas,” one of the sources said.

“The negotiations have totally stopped and there’s no immediate prospect for their resumption before the end of the continuing Iran-Israel crisis."

Israel says it will not let the Iranian attack go unpunished, but it has not yet said how it intends to retaliate. The US, Israel’s strongest ally, says it will not be involved in any Israeli response and, together with other world powers, has called for restraint.

Iran’s attack involved dozens of drones and cruise and ballistic missiles and was launched in retaliation for an air strike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1, which Tehran blames on Israel. Iran has signalled that it did not seek further escalation.

The sources said the last contact with Hamas over ceasefire negotiations was late on Saturday, hours before Iran launched its attack. The militant group informed mediators from Qatar and Egypt that it had rejected the latest proposals.

Hamas said it continued to stand by its demands that it would not accept a truce or enact an exchange of detainees and hostages with Israel unless it is given guarantees over a permanent ceasefire, full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and an unconditional return home of Palestinians displaced in the north of the enclave.

Israel has not publicly commented on the Hamas response, but it has in the past described similar demands as “delusional”. Israel says the war will not end before it has dismantled the governing and military capabilities of Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

The Gaza war, the fifth conflict between Hamas and Israel since 2008, started when fighters from the militant group attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and kidnapping about 250.

Israel responded with a ferocious bombing campaign that has to date killed more than 33,800 Palestinians, displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents and razed large areas of the enclave.

Updated: April 16, 2024, 2:46 PM