UN urges Israel to allow aid to Gaza through port

Hamas says ceasefire talks to resume next week, making a truce before Ramadan unlikely

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

Egyptian officials had earlier said the negotiations reached an impasse over Hamas’ 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 spokesman 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.

The US, 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.

The 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.

Hamas 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 Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel 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.

The Egyptian officials say Israel wants to confine the negotiations to the more limited agreement. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations with media. Both officials said mediators are still pressing the two parties to soften their positions.

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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