Creating new perspectives since 2009

Hamas' Haniyeh in Egypt amid intensive talks on new ceasefire

December 20, 2023 at 11:13 am

Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh on October 15, 2023 [Iranian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images]

The leader of Hamas made his first visit to Egypt for more than a month today, a rare personal intervention in diplomacy amid what a source described as intensive talks on a new ceasefire to let aid reach Gaza and prisoners of war freed, Reuters reports.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last travelled to Egypt in early November before the announcement of the only agreement on a ceasefire in the war so far, a week-long pause during which more than 100 Israeli prisoners or war were released in exchange for Palestinians detained and held in Israeli jails.

A source briefed on negotiations said envoys were discussing which of the prisoners of war still held in Gaza could be freed under a new truce agreement, and what prisoners Israel might release in return.

Israel was insisting that all remaining women and infirm men among the prisoners of war be released, the source said, declining to be identified.

The source described the negotiations as intensive and said a breakthrough could be possible within days.

A Palestinian official said Haniyeh was keen to listen to Egyptian officials for a possible new approach and noted that the official position of Hamas was to reject any new temporary ceasefire and demand a permanent halt to fighting.

“Hamas’s stance remains they don’t have a desire for humanitarian pauses. Hamas wants a complete end to the Israeli war on Gaza,” the Palestinian official said.

“Haniyeh and Hamas always appreciate the Egyptian effort. He is in Cairo today to listen to whether Israel has made new proposals or whether Cairo has some too. It is early to speak of expectations.”

A senior Israeli official repeated the government position that the war could end only with the release of all hostages and the destruction of Hamas: “As the prime minister has said, the war will end with total victory.”

The negotiations come as Israel has faced increasing pressure from its international allies to curb its genocidal bombing campaign in Gaza, during which it has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians and injured close to 60,000.

Washington, Israel’s closest ally, has publicly called over the past week for it to scale down its all-out war into a more targeted campaign against Hamas leaders and end what US President Joe Biden called “indiscriminate bombing”.

OPINION: Israel is conducting its own ‘Final Solution’ in Gaza