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CAIRO: Hamas on Thursday left Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo where there was no sign of progress just days before the start of Ramadan, while the US said the onus was on the Palestinian militant group to strike a deal on Israeli hostages.
Israel and Hamas blamed each other for the lack of agreement after four days of talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt to secure a 40-day ceasefire amid fears violence could escalate during the Muslim fasting month.
Egyptian security sources said talks, taking place without an Israeli delegation in Cairo, would resume on Sunday, the deadline mediators have set for the two sides to respond to the truce proposal.
There was no confirmation from Hamas on the Egyptian comments about a deadline, and Hamas officials said they had already made their stance clear.
Senior US administration officials said the onus was on Hamas to complete a hostage deal and attributed the delay to what they described as Hamas so far not agreeing to release sick and elderly hostages.
A Hamas official told Reuters the United States was in partnership with Israel and that such comments were misleading. Hamas has insisted that a ceasefire deal include a process toward ending the war altogether.
Hamas said earlier in a statement their delegation had left Cairo to speak to the movement’s leaders, “with negotiations and efforts continuing to stop the aggression, return the displaced and bring in relief aid to our people.”.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters Israel had been “thwarting” efforts to conclude a ceasefire deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his intention on Thursday of pressing on with the military campaign in Gaza, launched after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, in which Israel said 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted.
Israel has previously said its aim is to destroy Hamas and that any ceasefire must be temporary. It has also pressed for a list of hostages still alive and held by Hamas in Gaza.
“Needless to say, Israel will do whatever it takes to release our hostages… unfortunately, it is Hamas who is the stumbling block right now by not telling us who is alive and who they have in their custody,” Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said.
The deal presented to Hamas for a ceasefire in Gaza would require it to free some of the hostages it still holds. Palestinian prisoners held in Israel would also be released.
Hamas officials have said a ceasefire must be in place before the hostages are freed, Israeli forces must leave Gaza and all Gazans must be able to return to homes they have fled.
Hamas has said it can’t provide a list of the hostages who are still alive without a ceasefire as the hostages are scattered across the war zone.
News that the Hamas delegation had left Cairo without an accord was met with despair in Gaza, which is in the grip of a deep humanitarian crisis after five months of war.
“I feel great disappointment and despair, fear too,” said Abir, who along with her 12-member family has taken refuge in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where more than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people are now sheltering.
“America must apply pressure for an end to the war or a long-term truce and allow in lots of aid to all residents,” Abir told Reuters via a chat app.
US officials said President Joe Biden would later announce that the US military will construct a port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to receive humanitarian assistance by sea.
The US Central Command and Royal Jordanian Air Force continued on Thursday with joint efforts to drop food and other aid by air in the north of the enclave, where UN aid agencies say a large proportion of the population is on the brink of famine.
Netanyahu vowed to press on with Israel’s offensive, including into Rafah.
“Whoever tells us not to act in Rafah is telling us to lose the war and that will not happen,” he said.
Mass Grave
Health officials in Gaza said the number of people confirmed killed in Israel’s offensive had now passed 30,800. It reported 83 deaths in the past 24 hours and witnesses said the Israeli bombardments continued in Khan Younis, the southern city of Rafah, and areas in central Gaza.
They said Israel on Thursday had returned 47 bodies of Palestinians it had killed earlier during its offensive, through its crossing with the enclave in the southern Gaza Strip.
Images showed bodies in blue bags lined up for burial in a shallow mass grave.
“They bring them to us, the martyrs (are) just numbered – it is not known who they are, and that is all,” said Ayman Abu Hatab, a worker in the morgue of Abu Yousef Al-Najjar hospital.
Hamas reiterated a call on Thursday for Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and inside Israel to step up visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan to increase pressure on Israel to “agree to demands for a ceasefire”.
Negotiators are pushing for an accord ahead of Ramadan partly due to concerns that the mosque complex in Jerusalem, the third holiest shrine in Islam, might become a flashpoint for violence during the fasting month.
Israel has said it will allow a similar level of access to the site as in previous years, without providing figures.


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