New round of Gaza negotiations to start Thursday in Cairo: Source

Egypt and Qatar are sponsoring a new round of negotiations to start Thursday in Cairo aimed at achieving “calm” in Gaza as well as a prisoner-hostage exchange, an Egyptian official said.

A Hamas source with knowledge of the matter confirmed the Palestinian group had agreed to the talks, with the goal of “a ceasefire, an end to the war and a prisoner exchange deal.”

The Egyptian official said Cairo was urging “both parties to show the necessary flexibility” to achieve a truce in Hamas-run Gaza, where the health ministry says nearly 28,000 people have been killed in four months of war.

“Egypt is undertaking intense and persistent efforts to reach a truce agreement in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Last week, a Hamas source said the proposed new truce calls for a six-week pause to fighting and a hostage-prisoner exchange, as well as more aid for Gaza, but negotiations have continued since.

Egypt and Qatar said on Tuesday that Hamas had responded to a new proposal, with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani saying “the reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive.”

US Secretary Antony Blinken, currently on his fifth crisis tour of the Middle East since the war began, said he would discuss Hamas’s reply with Israeli leaders.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the “details are being thoroughly evaluated” by the spy agency Mossad, but the premier himself — who had yet to comment directly on the Hamas response — stressed Israel’s overall war aim remained unchanged.

“We are on the way to the total victory and we will not stop,” said Netanyahu.

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