Hamas chief says still open to Gaza truce talks

Hamas chief says still open to Gaza truce talks
Hamas chief says still open to Gaza truce talks

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Children look on as a Palestinian woman mourns in the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza. — AFP pic

GAZA, March 11 — Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said yesterday the group was still open to talks with Israel, after mediators so far failed to secure a Ramadan truce in the Gaza war.

“I say clearly that the one who bears responsibility for not reaching an agreement is the occupation (Israel)... However, I say that we are open to continuing negotiations,” Haniyeh said in a televised speech as several Muslim nations announced the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan would begin on Monday.

Mediators had been pushing for a new truce in the war, now in its sixth month, before Ramadan began.

However, Haniyeh, who is in self-exile in Qatar, on Sunday said Israel was unwilling to meet Hamas’s conditions for a deal that would have seen hostages exchanged for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

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He reiterated that Hamas wanted a durable ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes and ramped-up access to humanitarian aid in the besieged territory where famine looms.

Israel has rejected a complete withdrawal of its troops, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue his campaign to destroy Hamas, even after any truce deal.

An Israeli statement on Saturday had accused Hamas of “entrenching its positions like someone who is not interested in a deal and is striving to inflame the region during Ramadan.”

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Haniyeh said he was in contact with mediators “hours before this speech” but to no avail.

“If we receive from the mediator brothers a clear position on the occupation with its commitment to withdrawal, stopping the aggression, and the return of the displaced, then we are ready” to complete a deal, he said.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas also took around 250 hostages, dozens of whom were released during a week-long truce in November. Israel believes 99 hostages remain alive and that 31 have died.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign has killed at least 31,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. — AFP

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