Diplomatic efforts intensify in Paris to forge Gaza ceasefire amid escalating conflict

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24th February 2024 – (Paris) Paris became the focal point for high-level truce negotiations on Friday, aiming to quell the ongoing hostilities in Gaza. These talks represent the most concerted effort in recent weeks to broker peace and secure the release of hostages held by both sides.

The clandestine discussions saw Israel’s Mossad chief separately engaging with representatives from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States, as per sources preferring to remain unnamed. These sources conveyed a cautious optimism about the initiation of substantive talks.

Simultaneously, Egyptian television network Al Qahera TV News confirmed that the dialogue had indeed commenced.

In a related development, a Hamas official announced the conclusion of ceasefire deliberations in Cairo, with the group now poised for the results of the current mediation with Israel. The urgency of these talks is underscored by the looming threat of an Israeli offensive on the densely populated city of Rafah in Gaza, which could lead to significant civilian casualties.

The U.S. has appealed to Israel, its longstanding ally, to refrain from such an attack, emphasizing the potential humanitarian crisis.

Earlier in the week, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh engaged with Egyptian mediators in Cairo, marking a pivotal discussion since his last visit in December. Following these meetings, Egyptian intelligence head Abbas Kamel is slated to engage with Israeli officials in Paris.

Despite the ongoing dialogue, Hamas has reportedly not presented new proposals, instead waiting to assess what the mediators return with from their engagements with Israel.

The previous Paris talks yielded a ceasefire blueprint, initially accepted by Israel and the U.S. but met with a counterproposal by Hamas, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed. The current impasse revolves around Hamas’ demand for an Israeli withdrawal, countered by Israel’s insistence on Hamas’ disarmament.

Netanyahu has briefed his security cabinet on a post-conflict strategy for Gaza, envisioning continued Israeli security oversight and dismissing any role for the Palestinian Authority—a position at odds with Washington’s preference.