Israel and Hamas urged to agree to Gaza war ceasefire

Growing clamour for ceasefire at World Economic Forum meeting in Riyadh, as truce talks resume in Cairo

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pictured in Riyadh with foreign ministers and senior officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan and the UAE. Wam
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Israel and Hamas have come under renewed pressure to agree to a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as international diplomats met in Riyadh to discuss solutions to the crisis.

Indirect negotiations to secure a truce and hostage deal after more than six months of war in the enclave have entered a "decisive" phase, according to sources familiar with the talks in Cairo.

The Hamas delegation led by Khalil Al Haya and senior officials from Israel's intelligence services are meeting Egyptian and US officials to discuss a potential new deal.

The latest proposals seem to align more with Hamas's position than previous negotiations, say the sources, with Israel reportedly re-entering discussions over demands it previously rejected.

“Everything is back on the table now. These are decisive talks,” a Palestinian political source said.

The length of the ceasefire has been a central sticking point in talks to end Israel's offensive in Gaza, which has killed 34,400 Palestinians since Hamas killed around 1,200 in its attack on southern Israel. Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire, while Israel prefers a temporary ceasefire aimed primarily at facilitating the release of the hostages before it returns to its objective of attempting to destroy Hamas.

The new deal envisages an initial limited truce with a staged hostage swap as in previous deals, but Israel has also reportedly agreed to a "second phase" of the truce that includes a "period of sustained calm" of up to a year.

World leaders and diplomats urged both sides to accept the deal as Gaza topped the agenda at the World Economic Forum meeting in Riyadh.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the meeting that "the proposal has taken into account the positions of both sides."

"I hope that all will rise to the occasion," he said.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan welcomed the progress but said that “any ceasefire deal must be a permanent ceasefire,” and described the long-term solution as a "credible, irreversible pathway to a Palestinian state."

WEF President Børge Brende said Gaza is now the current global priority as it "has the potential of escalating conflicts so much in the region”.

“There is much more pressure now for a political path and the future two-state solution than I have seen I would say maybe in decades,” he told The National.

Speaking at the closing session, the UK's Lord Cameron told participants all pressure should be exerted on Hamas to accept the deal, which he described as a "pretty generous offer".

“I hope Hamas do take this deal and frankly all the pressure in the world and all the eyes of the world should be on them today, saying ‘take that deal’. It will bring about this stop in the fighting that we all want to see so badly.”

He also said that “Hamas's leadership must leave Gaza ... you have to see a political future for the Palestinian people and security for Israel”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also attended the meeting in Riyadh, where he discussed Gaza as well as the potential normalisation of Saudi-Israeli ties with Prince Faisal.

Mr Blinken portrayed the latest proposal as "extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel" and urged Hamas to "decide quickly".

The US has also been pressuring Israel to accept a deal.

Hours before the delegations arrived in Cairo, US President Joe Biden spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to review the “ongoing talks to secure the release of hostages together with an immediate ceasefire in Gaza”, the White House said in a statement.

Antony Blinken arrives in Saudi Arabia for talks on Gaza

Antony Blinken arrives in Saudi Arabia for talks on Gaza

Alongside pushing for a ceasefire, the US has repeatedly warned the Israeli government against launching a much-feared invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than one million Palestinians are sheltering.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel will attack Rafah as part of his vow to destroy Hamas.

Speaking from Riyadh, Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi said Mr Netanyahu "doesn't want peace" and Israel hasn't acted as a "partner" to the Arab world.

“We, as Arabs, know what we want and what we can do ... but we do not have a partner [in Israel]," he said.

“What’s missing is what Israel needs to do and what the international community needs to do."

Failure to reach a deal could see Hamas relocate its leadership-in-exile from Qatar, where the talks are expected to move after two days in Cairo.

Sources told The National that Qatari mediators had made thinly veiled warnings to the Hamas leaders based in Doha that they would be asked to leave if they did not show flexibility during the Gaza truce negotiations.

Musa Abu Marzouk, a member of the Hamas politburo, told Iran's Al Alam TV that the talks about the group being forced to leave Doha are “false”. However, he added that if they had to leave, they would aim to relocate to Jordan.

“If the leadership of Hamas relocates, and this is not a topic now, they will move to Jordan,” he said.

The Hamas official also said that a delegation from the group is heading to China in the coming days for direct discussions with Fatah, which controls the Palestinian National Authority in the occupied West Bank, about the future of the Palestinian cause.

Updated: April 30, 2024, 7:19 AM