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“Gaza Truce”: Mediation efforts search for “a new, more comprehensive formula”

Mediators in Qatar, the United States of America, and Egypt are searching for a “new, more comprehensive formula” for a “truce” in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, after negotiation efforts faltered and were unable to reach an agreement before the month of Ramadan, as had been hoped.

The head of the Egyptian State Information Service, Diaa Rashwan, said in televised statements on Tuesday evening, “There is an American proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for a period of one to two weeks, but it is not under the same conditions as the first truce.” He explained that “this proposal does not put pressure on Israel, as it includes a ceasefire that is not accompanied by a withdrawal of Israeli forces or an exchange of prisoners.”

Rashwan described the American proposal as “a break, not a truce,” noting that “during the break, meetings will be held to reach a final formula for a truce with full conditions, and to revise a deal between the two parties.” He pointed out that “this proposal comes in anticipation of the worsening situation during the month of Ramadan, whether in the West Bank, or even in Gaza.” He said, “This proposal avoids dangerous repercussions that may occur during Ramadan, when the situation may explode if Israel carries out a major operation against civilians in Gaza,” adding: “This is a break during which the points of view between the two sides will be brought closer.”

Smoke rising in the Gaza Strip after an Israeli bombing during the recent period (AFP)

For his part, Algerian political analyst, Mohamed Adam Al-Maqrani, confirmed that “the situation is complex and changing.” He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The intense diplomatic efforts by the mediators indicate a real desire to reach a solution. But obstacles still remain, represented by the lack of trust between the parties and the difficulty of agreeing on the conditions presented.”

While the expert on Israeli affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Dr. Saeed Okasha, suggested “the possibility of agreeing on a short break,” but he indicated that “it will not exceed five days.” He told Asharq Al-Awsat, “Such a break does not require an agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may intend to ease military operations in Gaza, implementing a kind of undeclared truce.” But he explained, “It is difficult for Netanyahu to stop the war for a long time, in light of the pressures his government is exposed to at home.”

The United States, Qatar, and Egypt have been mediating in the truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas since last January, holding rounds of negotiations in Paris, Cairo, and Doha, but these efforts have not yielded an agreement so far. Egyptian-Qatari mediation previously succeeded in stopping the fighting for a week in November, during which Hamas released more than 100 of its detainees, while Israel released about three times that number of Palestinian prisoners.

According to Rashwan, “Anyone who follows the negotiations that began in Paris more than a month and a half ago, then the second Paris meetings, then Doha, then Cairo, confirms that the United States of America finds itself in real embarrassment and accused of involvement with Israel in crimes in Gaza.” He added, “US President Joe Biden had hope that the Israeli government would accept the idea of ​​a truce for a period of 6 weeks, according to the Paris plan, followed by other truces, but it is clear that Washington no longer has the ability to put pressure on Tel Aviv,” pointing to “public disagreements that have surfaced.” ».

Last week, over the course of four days, Cairo hosted a round of negotiations aimed at agreeing on a “calm in Gaza for a period of six weeks,” in which delegations from Hamas, Qatar, and the United States of America participated, and ended with the Hamas delegation leaving Cairo “for consultations.”

Israel was absent from the last round of talks in Cairo. Because “Hamas” refused to implement its request to provide a list of the names of the living detainees, which the movement indicated was “difficult” in light of the continuing fighting, especially with the presence of detainees in several areas inside the Gaza Strip.

The picture shows the forces operating in the Bureij area in the central Gaza Strip (AFP)

This comes at a time when an Egyptian source familiar with the progress of the negotiations told Asharq Al-Awsat that “contacts are continuing between the mediators to bring views closer between Israel and Hamas,” stressing that “matters are still difficult and complicated.” He explained that “everyone is looking for a consensus formula as both parties adhere to their positions.”

Qatar confirmed, on Tuesday evening, that “Israel and Hamas are not close to an agreement.” The spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed Al-Ansari, explained during a press conference in Doha that “the two sides do not agree on a language that can resolve the current dispute over the implementation of the agreement,” and “the situation is very complex on the ground.” Al-Ansari stressed in his interview with CNN on Tuesday that “there is a need for a new formula this time.” He said: “We tried the formula of daily cessation (of fighting) last time, and it did not work. Because in the end, the two parties will disagree on the lists and how to implement them. We need a more comprehensive first phase that will allow us some time to begin negotiations for the next phases.”

The last round of negotiations witnessed disagreements regarding the details of the detainee exchange deal from both sides, in addition to “Hamas’ demand for a complete ceasefire, while Tel Aviv insists on a temporary ceasefire,” according to the informed Egyptian source, who explained that “Hamas wanted to discuss all matters related to the situation.” The stages of the Paris framework seeking a complete ceasefire and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, while Tel Aviv only wanted to discuss the first stage.

The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, confirmed in a speech on the occasion, on Sunday evening, that the movement had set “controls” during the negotiations, including ending the war, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, the return of the displaced to their homes, and the entry of humanitarian aid.

But Israel had previously announced its “refusal to withdraw from Gaza.” She stressed that “any truce must be temporary, and that it is determined to achieve its goal of eliminating Hamas.”

Palestinian paramedics with others place bodies inside an ambulance after an air strike on the Maghazi camp earlier (Reuters)

For his part, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, confirmed on Tuesday that “his country continues to work for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire for at least six weeks, as part of a deal to release detainees in the Gaza Strip.” He added, in a post on “X”, that “peace is possible, it is necessary, and it is also urgent.”

Returning to Okasha, who pointed out that “a short truce or break may contribute to easing international and American pressure on Tel Aviv, and shows that the Netanyahu government does not underestimate the feelings of Muslims.”

Regarding the “most comprehensive stage,” Okasha believes that it is “an appreciation of the demands of the Hamas movement for a complete ceasefire,” pointing to previous “disagreements” between Tel Aviv and Hamas regarding lists of living prisoners.

Al-Maqrani agreed with him that “there is a discrepancy in positions between the two parties to the agreement, which complicates the situation on the ground.” But he said, “The efforts made by the Arab countries and the international community indicate the possibility of reaching a truce, but there are still challenges and obstacles that must be overcome.”

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