Hamas says talks on hostage release, ceasefire won’t resume until next week


Hamas said Thursday that its delegation has left Cairo and talks on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release will resume next week, making it extremely unlikely that a deal will be brokered before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Egyptian officials had earlier said the negotiations reached an impasse over Hamas’s demand for a phased process culminating in an end to the war. But they did not rule out a deal before Ramadan, which is expected to begin on Sunday and has emerged as an informal deadline.

Hamas spokesperson Jihad Taha said Israel “refuses to commit to and give guarantees regarding the ceasefire, the return of the displaced, and withdrawal from the areas of its incursion.” But he said the talks were still ongoing and would resume next week.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

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Demanding a full Gaza withdrawal

The U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been trying for weeks to broker an agreement on a six-week ceasefire and the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. President Joe Biden said last week he hoped a deal could be reached by March 4.

Egyptian officials said Hamas has agreed on the main terms of such an agreement as a first stage but wants commitments that it will lead to an eventual, more permanent ceasefire.

One woman reaches over and hugs another in a closeup.
Family members who have relatives being held hostage in Gaza spoke to the media Thursday at the Israeli embassy in London. From left, Avivit Yablonka, sister of Chanan Yablonka, 42, and Orit Meir, mother of Almog Meir, 21, embrace. (Toby Melville/The Associated Press)

Hamas, designated a terrorist group by several Western countries, has said it will not release all of the remaining hostages without a full Israeli withdrawal from the territory. Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages, and the remains of 30 others, captured during an Oct. 7 attack into Israel led by Hamas that triggered the war.

Hamas is also demanding the release of a large number of prisoners, including top militants serving life sentences, in exchange for the remaining hostages. Israel has publicly ruled out those demands, saying it intends to resume the offensive after any ceasefire with the goal of destroying Hamas.

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As It Happens7:02Former UNRWA spokesperson welcomes news that Canada will restore funding

The federal government is resuming funding to UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians, CBC News has learned. Canada paused its funding in January after Israel alleged 12 of the agency’s employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Christopher Gunness, UNRWA’s former director of strategic communications, says Canada never should have halted the flow of aid in the middle of a crisis. He spoke to As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

The Oct. 7 attacks left about 1,200 people dead, including several Canadians, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s bombardment in response has left at least 30,800 dead and 72,298 wounded, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are at risk of starvation.

Ramadan, the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, often sees Israeli-Palestinian tensions rise over access to a major holy site in Jerusalem. It is expected to begin on Sunday, but the start of the lunar month depends on the sighting of the moon.

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