Israel launches more strikes on Gaza as Cairo ceasefire talks stall

Egypt calls on Hamas and Israel to show flexibility to ensure a deal is reached

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Israel carried out more strikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday after Hamas and Israeli negotiators and mediators left talks in Cairo without securing a ceasefire deal.

Heavy shelling continued across the Palestinian enclave, while artillery strikes on Rafah, on the border with Egypt, killed several people including children, reports said.

Witnesses reported overnight air strikes and fighting in Jabalya, in the north of Gaza.

Fighter jets also hit sites in Gaza city’s Al Zeitoun district, while warplanes and helicopter gunships struck targets in the central area of the Palestinian territory, the Israeli military said.

Islam Emad, who is renting a house in the centre of Rafah city south of the Gaza Strip, after fleeing from Gaza city to the southern border city, told The National that she had not been able to calm her children since the overnight strikes.

“It was a hard night; the shelling didn't stop and my children keep telling me that they are afraid. I feel paralysed, I don't know what to tell them,” she told The National.

“I was thinking of leaving this morning, but where to go? There is no safe place, and seeing the bodies of little children who were killed drives me crazy. What should I do to protect my children?”

Another internally displaced resident in Rafah city, Sami Abed Al Wahab, told The National that Gazans feel they have been abandoned.

“We lived through a hard night, with shelling everywhere, and there is no news about a truce. We feel abandoned, and the only fate we are awaiting is death,” Mr Abed Al Wahab said.

“The artillery shelling didn't stop, and the shrapnel reached all Rafah cities in the central and west,” he said.

Stalled negotiations

Negotiating teams for Israel and Hamas left Cairo on Thursday evening after what Egyptian hosts described as a “two-day round” of indirect talks over the possible terms of a Gaza truce.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and whose unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel sparked the war, said its delegation had left for Qatar, home to the Palestinian Islamist group's political leadership.

“The negotiating delegation left Cairo heading to Doha. The occupation [Israel] rejected the proposal submitted by the mediators and raised objections to it on several central issues,” Hamas said in a message to other Palestinian factions, adding that it stood by the proposal.

“Accordingly, the ball is now completely in the hands of the occupation.”

Hamas had said on Monday that it accepted a ceasefire proposal put forward by mediators.

Saeed Al Shamali, a 50-year-old resident of Gaza city, spent most of last night awake following the news that the negotiations in Cairo for a ceasefire did not materialise into a deal.

“I couldn't sleep tonight. The sound of bombing was loud and didn't stop,” Mr Al Shamali told The National.

“Each time we think that the war will end and everything is over, they come to invade a new area as if the war starts from the beginning.

“It seems that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] doesn't want to end the war. He will go through with his plans and destroy all of Gaza.”

Egypt has said Hamas and Israel must show “flexibility” if they are to strike a deal for a ceasefire and hostage-prisoner exchange in the seven-month war in the Gaza Strip, according to a foreign ministry statement released on Friday.

The readout of a phone call between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said they both agreed on “the importance of urging the parties to show flexibility and make all the necessary efforts to achieve a ceasefire agreement and put an end to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza”.

CIA director William Burns, who is also part of the truce efforts, was due to return to the US from the Middle East on Friday, the White House said.

“That doesn't mean there aren't still continuing discussions,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“We still believe that there's a path forward, but it's going to take some leadership on both sides.”

The UN General Assembly is expected to vote on Friday on a resolution that would grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine and call on the Security Council to favourably reconsider its request to become the 194th member of the UN.

The US vetoed a widely backed council resolution on April 18 that would have paved the way for full UN membership for Palestine, a goal the Palestinians have long sought and Israel has worked to prevent.

US deputy ambassador to the UN Robert Wood made clear on Thursday that the Biden administration is opposed to the assembly resolution.

Under the UN Charter, prospective members of the UN must be “peace-loving”, and the Security Council must recommend their admission to the General Assembly for final approval. Palestine became a UN non-member observer state in 2012.

Spain and Ireland are among a group of EU member states that plan to recognise a Palestinian state on May 21, said the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

“This is a symbolic act of a political nature. More than a state, it recognises the will for that state to exist,” Mr Borrell said, adding that countries such as Belgium could soon follow suit.

Updated: May 10, 2024, 10:13 AM