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Gaza talks face major obstacles

Destroyed buildings lie in ruin in the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 21, 2023.

Destroyed buildings lie in ruin in the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 21, 2023.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Mediators from Qatar and Egypt are engaged in efforts to facilitate another truce in Gaza and see more hostages released. So far, it’s not looking good, as both Israel and Hamas continued trading airstrikes and rocket attacks on Thursday.


What Israel wants: President Isaac Herzog on Tuesday said the Israeli government is ready for another “humanitarian pause” to allow for the release of more hostages. Echoing this, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said Israel has been “very clear” that it would “welcome returning to a pause to ensure the release of hostages.”

It’s believed that 129 hostages are still being held in Gaza, though Israel says 21 of them are dead. Since the fighting began, Hamas has released 110 of the roughly 240 hostages taken on Oct. 7. The bulk of those released were freed as part of a temporary truce in late November that also saw Israel release dozens of Palestinian prisoners.

What Hamas wants: The Palestinian militant group says it wants a permanent ceasefire and reportedly rejected an Israeli offer for a temporary pause in the fighting. Hamas says no additional hostages will be released “until after there is a comprehensive cessation of aggression.”

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week said the war will not end until Hamas is eliminated. On Thursday, he told Hamas to “surrender or die.”

Meanwhile, at the UN: The UN Security Council on Thursday continued negotiations on a draft resolution calling for an “urgent suspension” of fighting in Gaza to allow for humanitarian aid. A vote on the resolution had been delayed by the US, which has already used its veto twice since Oct. 7 to block UNSC action on Gaza. But late Thursday, the US indicated that it was ready to support a resolution for aid to Gaza. The text, which had been calling for a suspension of fighting, calls instead for "urgent steps" to allow for humanitarian access.

A vote could be held as early as Friday.

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