Gaza ceasefire talks underway as Hamas delegation arrives in Cairo

Rallies are taking place in Israel as tens of thousands of people call for a ceasefire deal to bring hostages home

Hopes are rising that a deal can be struck to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages, after a delegation from Hamas arrived in Cairo.

Pressure is mounting to negotiate an end to the war which has been going on for nearly seven months and has cost thousands of lives.

In a statement, Hamas said they were heading to the negotiations with a "positive spirit" and "with the aim of working forward for an agreement.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week: “There’s no time for further haggling. The deal is there.”

The proposal that Egyptian mediators put to Hamas sets out an immediate, six-week ceasefire and the partial release of Israeli hostages.

It would see Hamas start by releasing female civilian hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The proposal also sets out plans for a “permanent calm” that includes some sort of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

However, negotiations have been going on for months without a breakthrough and both sides want to end the war on their own terms.

Palestinians line up for food in Rafah, Gaza. Credit: AP

Israel has downplayed the prospects of a ceasefire and is planning an offensive into the city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering.

The United Nations has warned that hundreds of thousands would be “at imminent risk of death” if Israel moves forward into the densely packed city, which is also a critical entry point for humanitarian aid.

Israel has briefed the Biden administration on plans to evacuate civilians ahead of the Rafah operation, according to US officials.

The war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s local health officials, caused widespread destruction and plunged the territory into an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

The conflict erupted on 7th October when Hamas attacked southern Israel, abducting about 250 people and killing around 1,200, mostly civilians.

Israel says militants still hold around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

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