Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza captive deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to convene his war cabinet Sunday to discuss the latest efforts towards a Gaza truce and captive release deal, a senior official told AFP.

The news came despite more deadly Gaza fighting, during which at least 82 Palestinians were killed in less than 24 hours, and a rocket barrage Hamas aimed at Tel Aviv that entailed no fatalities. 

US President Joe Biden has pushed for renewed international efforts to halt the Gaza war, and CIA chief Bill Burns on Friday met Mossad director David Barnea and Qatar’s prime minister in Paris.

While Israel’s main focus is to free the remaining hostages, Hamas has insisted on a permanent end to the war raging since 7 October — a demand Netanyahu has so far rejected out of hand.

An Israeli senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that “the war cabinet is expected to meet in Jerusalem tonight at 2100 (1800 GMT) to discuss a hostage release deal”.

The official had said Saturday that “there is an intention to renew these talks this week” after negotiations involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators had stalled in early May.

A member of the Hamas political bureau, Izzat al-Rishq, however said on Sunday that “regarding the rumours about negotiations, we have not received anything from the mediators” so far.

He insisted on Hamas’s long-standing demand for a permanent cessation of hostilities in all of Gaza as “the foundation and the starting point for anything”.

Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas, yet of the almost 36,000 Palestinians killed by Israel’s war on Gaza, the vast majority are innocent civilians. 

But he also faces strong pressure from families of the hostages — and from top ally the United States, where outrage over the Gaza war and US support for Israel has become a major issue for Biden in the election battle against Donald Trump.

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