Israeli war cabinet meets amid hope new Gaza truce is close

World

Israel’s war cabinet has been briefed on a potential ceasefire deal with Hamas following negotiations in Paris.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gathered ministers late on Saturday night after Israeli envoys returned from meeting US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told US media they “came to an understanding” on the basic outline of a deal.

Details of the war cabinet’s discussions have not been revealed, but Israeli media outlets cited unnamed officials and reported a truce lasting several weeks had tacitly been agreed.

It would be the second ceasefire following one in November which saw several hundred Palestinians released from Israeli jails and about 100 hostages freed by Hamas.

Mr Netanyahu told CBS programme Face The Nation that another pause in the fighting wasn’t yet a done deal and Hamas needed to make further concessions.

“They’re in another planet. But if they come down to a reasonable situation, then yes we’ll have a hostage deal. I hope so,” he said.

Palestinians inspect the site of an Israeli strike in Rafah. Pic: Reuters
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Palestinians inspect a destroyed car in Rafah. Pic: Reuters

Negotiators have been ramping up efforts in the hope of heading off an Israeli ground assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than one million displaced people are sheltering.

Aid groups have warned of a catastrophe and Western governments have again urged Israel to do its utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

Mr Netanyahu wrote on X that the cabinet was set to approve “operational plans” for Rafah, including a civilian evacuation, in the coming days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pic: AP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pic: AP

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was also in Cairo this week to meet Egyptian mediators.

Security sources in Egypt said further talks involving Israeli and Hamas representatives would take place in Qatar this week, although there’s been no official confirmation so far.

Pressure on Mr Netanyahu to secure the release of hostages taken during October’s Hamas attack on Israel remains very high.

Thousands turned out for a vigil in Tel Aviv on Saturday – a short distance from an anti-government protest where demonstrators clashed with police.

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Demonstrators attended a rally calling for the release of hostages. Pic: Reuters
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People held another vigil for Israeli hostages in Tel Aviv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Pic: Reuters
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Protesters also took to the streets of the coastal city. Pic: Reuters

More than 1,200 Israelis died in the attack last year, while the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says 29,692 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and children.

Medics said at least 86 Palestinians died this weekend after more strikes. Israel said two of its soldiers died in fighting in southern Gaza.

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