Home » Cease-fire talks advance in Egypt even as Israel threatens to invade Rafah

Cease-fire talks advance in Egypt even as Israel threatens to invade Rafah

by NBC News

TEL AVIV — A high-level Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Saturday as months of stop-start talks for a cease-fire and hostage release deal appear to have reached a crucial stage, even as Israel continued to threaten a ground offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah that United Nations officials have warned will worsen the civilian death toll and deepen the enclave’s humanitarian crisis.

American and Egyptian negotiators indicated there had been signs of compromise in recent days. Hamas said Friday that its leaders had studied the most recent proposals with a “positive spirit,” and “we are going to Cairo in the same spirit to reach an agreement.”

The progress, however, remains short of a deal. An Israeli official told NBC News on Saturday there was “still a ways to go” and to “wait before celebrating.”

“Israel will under no circumstances agree to the end of the war as part of an agreement to release our hostages,” a separate Israeli official said in a statement. The Israeli military, they added, “will enter Rafah and destroy the remaining Hamas battalions there — whether or not there will be a temporary pause for the release of our hostages.”

The United Nations humanitarian aid agency warned that hundreds of thousands of people would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel carries out a military offensive on Rafah.

An assault on the city on the border with Egypt would cause further significant disruption in the delivery of aid across the enclave, as the city remains the primary entry point for food, water, health, sanitation, hygiene and other critical support for Palestinians in Gaza.

While Hamas’ statement Friday said it was “determined to develop an agreement,” it did not appear to have changed its demands for a complete end to the fighting in Gaza, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the enclave and an allowance for displaced people to return to their homes.

Israel has never indicated it would completely withdraw…

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