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Israel-Hamas War Live Updates: Mixed Signals Emerge from Cease-Fire Talks

Parties haggling over a possible cease-fire in Gaza offered mixed signals on Wednesday, with Hamas’s political leader saying that the group was ready to keep fighting Israel while the president of Egypt said that a truce could be reached “in the next few days.”

The Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a televised speech that the group was open to the mediated talks with Israel, but that “any flexibility we show in the negotiation process is a commitment to protecting the blood of our people, matched by a readiness to defend them.”

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, which is brokering the talks along with Qatar and the United States, offered a rosier view, saying that, “God willing, in the next few days, we will reach a cease-fire agreement” to bring “real relief” to the people of Gaza. The prediction matched that of President Biden, who said that a deal could come as soon as next week.

In public, however, Hamas and Israel are sticking with their longstanding positions and not signaling any breakthrough. The two sides have not met face to face, instead negotiating through mediators in Doha, Cairo and Paris. Hamas leaders continue to demand that Israel agree to a permanent cease-fire and withdraw all its troops from Gaza, while Israel has insisted that it will continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated, suggesting it is not prepared to agree to a long-term truce.

In a press briefing Wednesday night, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, said he was reluctant to comment on Mr. Biden’s remarks that a deal is imminent. “I really hope he’s right,” Mr. Gallant said.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said this week that talks were continuing and it was too early to speculate about a resolution. Mr. Haniyeh did not comment on specific terms of a cease-fire deal that could be under discussion, and it was not clear whether his remarks reflected real reservations or were a negotiating tactic.

The start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, around March 10, has emerged as a target for mediators to hammer out a truce in the war, which started with an Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel that authorities there say killed at least 1,200 people.

Mr. Haniyeh appeared to raise the stakes for reaching a deal in the coming days, calling on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to defy Israeli restrictions and march to the Aqsa mosque to pray at the start of Ramadan. That creates the prospect of clashes if Palestinians attempt to approach the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam and a longtime flashpoint in relations with Israel.

Israel has restricted access to the Aqsa mosque for West Bank Palestinians, and it has severely limited movement within the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza. Israeli officials are debating whether to place further restrictions on access to the mosque for some members of the country’s Arab minority, a move that could spark further unrest.

With the war’s death toll in Gaza nearing 30,000, according to health officials in the territory, pressure is building on Israel and the Biden administration, its chief ally, to secure a cease-fire. Israel has offered at least one significant concession, telling Qatari, Egyptian and U.S. mediators in Paris last week that it was ready to release 15 Palestinians jailed on serious terrorism charges in exchange for five female Israeli soldiers being held in Gaza, according to officials.

But a Hamas spokesman, Basem Naim, told The New York Times on Tuesday that the group had yet to formally receive “any new proposals” since the Paris meeting. Mr. Haniyeh met on Monday with the emir of Qatar and accused Israel of dragging its feet in the talks, according to a Hamas statement.

Israeli officials have said the goal is to reach a deal before the start of Ramadan. An Israeli delegation — including professionals from Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and its military — traveled to Qatar this week for more discussions, including over such details as the identities of the hostages and prisoners to be exchanged, according to an Israeli official.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Nada Rashwan and Adam Sella contributed reporting.

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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