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Conflicts, Military and WarWhat happens after the last round of Cairo negotiations on Gaza ends without an agreement?

What happens after the last round of Cairo negotiations on Gaza ends without an agreement?

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A new round of negotiations ended in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, this week, without reaching an agreement requiring the release of hostages held by Hamas and a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Since Tuesday, delegations from Hamas, Israel, the United States, Egypt and Qatar have met in Cairo, while there have been conflicting reports about the possibility of progress in the negotiations.

On Thursday, Cairo News Channel, which is close to Egyptian intelligence, quoted a source it described as “high-ranking,” that the Egyptian security delegation “is intensifying its efforts to find a consensus formula on some of the disputed points.”

Two Egyptian security sources also told Reuters on Thursday that the ceasefire talks in Cairo had achieved “some progress, but no agreement was reached.”

Later, Reuters quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that the latest round of indirect negotiations in Cairo had ended, and that Israel “will proceed with its operation in Rafah and other parts of the Palestinian Strip, according to the plan.”

The official added that Israel “presented to the mediators its reservations about Hamas’ proposal for a hostage release agreement.”

Hamas said on Friday that Israel’s rejection of “the mediators’ proposal, through the amendments it made to it, brought things back to square one.”

The Hamas movement announced earlier this week its acceptance of the ceasefire proposal in Gaza presented by Egypt and Qatar.

However, the US State Department confirmed that Hamas did not accept the ceasefire proposal, “but rather its response included several proposals, which are not equivalent to acceptance.”

Egypt has resumed trying to revive negotiations since late last month, especially in light of its concern about Israel’s invasion and aggression against Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where there are more than a million displaced Palestinians near its borders.

But during this week, Israel actually began a ground invasion, which it said was “limited” in the city of Rafah, as the Israeli army took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on Tuesday, a move that was condemned by Cairo and other countries, as well as warnings from the United States. Because of the genocide committed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

For its part, Israel says that Rafah constitutes “the last stronghold of Hamas,” and that “perhaps dozens of hostages” who were taken by the Hamas movement in the October 7 attack are among thousands of children and women massacred by Israeli forces and more than a million Palestinians who were displaced to the city due to the ethnic cleansing by Israeli invasion.

Negotiations stopped?

Speaking to media, experts, and analysts believe that the delay in reaching an agreement “may indicate the possibility of Israel accelerating the pace of its military operation in Rafah during the coming period, to put pressure on Hamas,” but this “also does not prevent holding another round of negotiations.”

Israeli political analyst, Mordechai Kedar, says, “The end of the last round of negotiations means the continuation of the war.”

He added, “Hamas bears responsibility for the failure of this round of negotiations, and also responsibility for the continuation of the war.”

In turn, Israeli political analyst, Yoav Stern, confirms that “negotiations will continue between the various parties because there is no possibility but to continue negotiating during the coming days.”

He added: “Looking at the previous rounds, there were times when the talks were suspended for a limited period, and then the parties and mediators returned to the talks from the last point they reached, with the same principles.”

Egyptian political analyst and academic, Tariq Fahmy, expects the negotiations to be completed next week in Cairo. He tells, “The negotiations did not fail or freeze, but will be completed next week, especially with the parties reaching precise details in the agreement.”

He continues: “There is a tendency to clarify some of the main points…with the mediators insisting on reaching a consensus formula.”

For his part, Palestinian political analyst, Ismat Mansour, believes that “everyone now realizes that there is no alternative to reaching a ceasefire agreement.”

He continues during his talk: “Failing to reach an agreement means a deterioration in relations between Egypt and Israel on the one hand, and between the American administration and the Israeli government on the other hand.”

For months, indirect talks have been faltering due to Hamas’s demand to end the Israeli aggression against innocent civilians in Gaza, while Israel only wants a temporary truce, as Israeli officials say that their country is open to a truce, but it rejects demands to end the military invasion and bombing that has been going on for 7 months, until “victory is achieved and Hamas is eliminated.”

The United States and many countries of the world warned against the Israeli army launching a large-scale ground invasion in the Rafah border with Egypt, as the administration of US President Joe Biden says that it “cannot support” a major invasion of Rafah in the absence of what it describes as a credible plan to protect civilians.

The impact of the operation in Rafah

Egypt also expresses its concern about any large-scale military operation near its borders, as Egyptian officials told the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal that their country “threatened to stop mediating” in the negotiations, after Israel took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing.

Despite this, Kedar says, “Israel is determined to move forward with the military operation, with Hamas refusing to leave the Gaza Strip, and following the massacres they committed against the Israelis on October 7.”

Kedar propagated that Israel “insists on eliminating Hamas,” adding that the Hamas “uses the Palestinians as human shields in Rafah, and this is also reason enough to necessitate their expulsion and elimination, not only in this war but in the entire world.”

Hamas has always denied the Israeli accusation of using civilians as human shields.

For his part, Stern believes that despite “Israel’s plans for a large-scale operation in Rafah in order to eliminate Hamas’ military capabilities, there are heavy prices that Israel may pay if it does so, including international isolation and the impact on the lives of the kidnapped.”

But he came back to say that “the continuation of the war and the military operation has benefits in parallel with the negotiations, as it represents an additional pressure mechanism on Hamas.”

Israel says that between 5,000 and 8,000 armed men, making up 4 Hamas brigades, are holed up in Rafah, along with leaders and many hostages that Hamas has been holding since October 7.

For his part, the Egyptian academic said during his talk that “Israel’s beginning to implement a military invasion of eastern Rafah, in parallel with the continuation of negotiations, indicates that it wants to impose a fait accompli, but without clashing with other parties.”

Fahmi explains: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to impose a fait accompli strategy regarding a military invasion of Rafah, while not clashing with the mediating parties, especially Cairo, which is waiting with interest for the Philadelphia Corridor.”

The Palestinian political analyst, Mansour, agrees with this proposal, who believes that Israel “is seeking, through a large-scale operation in Rafah, to improve its negotiating position and possess more pressure and bargaining chips.”

However, American opposition to this step may indicate the difficulty of implementing it, according to Mansour, who adds, “There is concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian conditions in Gaza, as well as the internal reaction in Israel if the lives of the hostages are endangered.”

The Palestinian political analyst adds: “Despite the factors that may make it difficult for Israel to carry out a large-scale military invasion, if the negotiations collapse completely, Israel may resort to such a step.”

Optimism

The mediators have not issued any official comments since the end of the last round of negotiations, about resuming the talks or holding another new round, but the experts and analysts who were contacted by the media expressed optimism about reaching understandings between the parties in future rounds.

It is expected that the next stage will witness more flexibility in the negotiations, according to Stern, who says: “This means that there is no return to war, or the need for Israel to pay heavy prices.”

He continues: “In the end, there must be an agreement on the terms and conditions, with the commitment of all parties and mediators.”

He points out that “this matter will have an impact on the political situation in Israel as well,” as he does not rule out that Netanyahu will announce an agreement and “go directly after that to early elections.”

For his part, Fahmy says, “The mediators, according to estimates, have reached decisive points in the agreement, as the talk today revolves around the smallest details, including the number of hostages and the bodies of the dead that Israel will receive from Hamas.”

He added: “At the present time, there are intensive discussions regarding the time map for implementation, and the integration of the various stages of the ceasefire, and all of these matters naturally delay the completion of reaching an agreement.”

Fahmy continues: “In my estimation, the negotiations in the coming days will be at a very sensitive and at stake stage, and also important with regard to agreeing on controversial points.”

On Monday, Reuters revealed a three-stage agreement for a ceasefire in Gaza for a period of 42 days, including the exchange of hostages and Palestinian prisoners, leading to the completion of the exchange of bodies and the start of reconstruction in the third phase.

However, there were reports of “many sticking points” between Israel and Hamas regarding this agreement, including the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which said, on Tuesday, that among the points of contention between the two sides was Israel’s demand that Hamas release 33 hostages alive as part of The first stage of the deal. While the first stage, according to Hamas’s proposal, includes the release of 33 hostages, “dead or alive,” without specifying the number of hostages who will be returned alive.

For this reason, Mansour believes that reaching an agreement “requires political will,” considering that “some parties do not have a desire to do so.”

He adds: “Therefore, the biggest role now falls on the United States to put pressure on all parties to reach consensus on an agreement that will lead to ending the war and releasing the (Palestinian) hostages and prisoners.”

Israeli military invaded the Gaza Strip, following the attack by the Hamas movement on Israel on October 7.

During the attack, about 250 people were kidnapped, 130 of whom are still hostage in Gaza, according to official Israeli estimates.

In response to the attack, Israel pledged to “eliminate Hamas”, and has since carried out a bombing campaign followed by ground aggression since October 27, resulting in the killing of about 35,000 Palestinians, most of them children and women.

Israeli invasion caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, which had a population of 2.4 million people, and led to famine in its north, according to the World Food Program.


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Arab Desk
Arab Desk
The Eastern Herald’s Arab Desk validates the stories published under this byline. That includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on easternherald.com.

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