Negotiators Scramble To Rescue Gaza Hostage Talks As Refugee Area Struck In New Israeli Air Raid

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, Mar 02, 2024 - 11:05 PM

Negotiators involved in Qatari-mediated peace efforts between Israel and Hamas are said to be scrambling to salvage talks after the deadly aid convoy incident. The death toll from that Thursday incident has reportedly risen to 118. President Biden has said he hopes a deal can be reached by the start of the Muslim season of Ramadan, which begins March 10.

"We’re not there yet," he told reporters Friday. The Wall Street Journal has reported on the emerging disappointment and fear that talks have been utterly stalled. "Talks between Israel, Hamas and their mediators were expected to kick into high gear as the two sides try to reach a cease-fire for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan...," the Saturday report describes. Meanwhile Al Jazeera reports of a new mass casualty attack near Rafah:

At least 11 Palestinians were killed and 50 wounded when an Israeli air raid directly hit tents housing displaced people in Tal as-Sultan, Rafah, an area previously designated as "safe".

AFP via Getty Images

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Qatari and Egyptian officials that the Israeli side will not participate in another round of talks until Hamas confirms a full list of living hostages still being held in Gaza.

Axios reported on Friday, "Israel made it clear to Egypt and Qatar that it will not hold another round of talks until Hamas presents a list of the hostages who are alive."

Israeli officials said: "There is no point in starting another round of talks until we receive the lists of which of the hostages are alive and until Hamas gives its answer regarding the ‘ratio’ that defines how many prisoners will be released for each hostage."

This has been a key part of the hold up all along: disagreements over numbers and the iterative phases of planned exchanges. Additionally Hamas has been requiring that all Israeli troops withdraw from the Gaza Strip first, something which Netanyahu has called "delusional".

"Hamas officials have told negotiators that in the coming days they may propose new figures for how many Palestinian prisoners they expect to receive in exchange for roughly 40 Israeli hostages," according to more from the WSJ. "The latest framework being discussed in Cairo involves exchanging about 400 Palestinian prisoners for 40 of the hostages still held captive in Gaza, including five female Israeli soldiers."

On Tuesday President Biden raised eyebrows in hastily and seemingly prematurely declaring his hope that a truce deal between Hamas and Israel would be achieved by Monday.

But now this is even less likely, though that timetable was acknowledged as unrealistic by all parties in response. On Thursday the president walked back the statement. And now he's opted to stick with the 'hopefully' by Ramadan timeline. 

But there are now new reports of Israeli bombings of Palestinian tent encampments - in what looks like a dense urban or suburban area of Rafah - with horrific and tragic footage [warning: graphic] widely circulating, which will make successful talks between Hamas and Israel even less likely to progress. 

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Below is a list of more of the latest developments via Al Jazeera:

  • The US carried out its first airdrop of aid into Gaza, according to US officials, with three C-130 planes dropping some 35,000 meals.
  • Thousands are marching in Kafr Kana, an Arab town in northern Israel, to demand an end to Israel’s attacks in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
  • A separate crowd of Israeli protesters, led by relatives of Israeli captives in Gaza, are marching towards Jerusalem to urge the government to do whatever it can to bring their loved ones home.
  • Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, joining the march to Jerusalem, blamed the government for not doing enough to return Israeli captives.
  • The office of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called for an impartial investigation into the aid convoy attack on Thursday that killed 115 people and said responsibility for the incident falls on Israel.