Team from mediator Egypt in Israel for Gaza truce talks

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - JERUSALEM, April 27 — A delegation from mediator Egypt arrived in Israel yesterday in a bid to reignite stalled negotiations for a ceasefire in the Gaza war including the potential release of hostages, Israeli and Egyptian media reported.

The signs of fresh truce talks came alongside Israeli preparations for a military push in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, and with spillover from the war leading to stepped-up exchanges of fire over Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to seal a ceasefire deal in Gaza without success since a one-week halt to the fighting in November, which saw 80 Israeli hostages exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Since then, global criticism of the toll on Palestinian civilians in Gaza has escalated, as have calls for Hamas to release the remaining hostages being held since their October 7 attack triggered the war.

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Several Israeli media outlets, citing unnamed officials, said Israel’s war cabinet discussed a new plan for a truce and hostage release ahead of the Egyptian delegation’s visit.

There has been “noticeable progress in bringing the views of the Egyptian and Israeli delegations closer”, said Al-Qahera News, which is linked to Egyptian state intelligence services.

The war also ground on, with missiles fired from an Israeli jet striking Gaza City yesterday, killing at least three people in the Rimal neighbourhood, an AFP reporter said.

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“I was sitting selling cigarettes and suddenly a missile fell, shaking the whole area,” a witness who did not give his name told AFP, adding that the bodies of a man, a woman and a little girl were pulled out of the rubble.

‘Miracle’ baby dies

The war began with the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,356 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Israel estimates that 129 hostages are still being held by Hamas in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Top Arab and European officials are expected to hold talks about Gaza, including about a potential truce, in Saudi Arabia’s capital on Monday.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock are expected to attend the Riyadh meeting, which is also set to feature newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa.

Israel’s government has vowed to send troops into Rafah, where most of Gaza’s population is sheltering, but aid groups warn that an invasion would add to already catastrophic conditions in the besieged territory.

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told AFP that an invasion “will undoubtedly threaten the negotiations” and show “that Israel is interested in continuing the war”.

A baby delivered from her dying mother’s womb in Rafah on the weekend has died, the girl’s uncle said. When she was born, doctors hailed her as a “miracle”.

However Rami al-Sheikh told AFP that his niece Ruh has “joined her family in the gardens of eternity”, after her mother was fatally wounded in an Israeli strike.

‘Let’s be human beings’

Opposition to an Israeli military operation in Rafah extended to university campuses across the United States, where hundreds of students have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests.

“Stop the invasion! Hands off Rafah!” said a sign at a pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in the US capital.

Israel’s military offensive has turned vast swathes of Gaza into rubble, creating 37 million tonnes of debris that will take years to clear away, according to the UN Mine Action Service.

The World Food Programme has warned that famine is “a real and dangerous threat” in Gaza.

The European Union said yesterday it was giving an extra US$73 million in aid to Palestinians in Gaza “in light of the continued deterioration of the severe humanitarian crisis” there.

Israeli demonstrators have intensified protests, including on Thursday in Tel Aviv, for their government to reach a deal that would free the hostages, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of prolonging the war.

Leaders of the United States, Britain, France and more than a dozen other countries called on Thursday for Hamas to release the remaining captives who “include our own citizens”.

In a separate appeal to Hamas, Dani Miran, the father of Hungarian-Israeli hostage Omri Miran, said: “Please confirm the deal to prevent the killing of Israelis, Gazans, Israeli children, Gazan children. Let’s be human beings.”

Israel minister in crash

The Gaza war has led to increased violence between Israel and Iran’s proxies and allies, driving up regional tensions.

Israel has struck increasingly deeper into Lebanon, while the Hezbollah movement, based in Lebanon and backed by Iran, has stepped up attacks on Israeli positions across the border.

The Israeli army said yesterday that an Israeli civilian was killed by anti-tank missiles fired towards “the area of Har Dov”, which refers to the disputed Shebaa Farms border district.

Later yesterday, the Lebanese Islamist group Jamaa Islamiya said that an Israeli strike in eastern Lebanon had killed two of its senior commanders.

Israel had confirmed it killed one of the commanders, Mosab Khalaf, accusing Jamaa Islamiya of planning attacks on northern Israel.

In response to what it called a “cowardly assassination”, Hezbollah said it launched dozens of rockets at two military posts in northern Israel.

Near Tel Aviv, an 18-year-old woman was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack and the assailant was killed at the scene, according to paramedics and police.

After addressing journalists at the scene, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was involved in a car crash in which three people were lightly injured, police said. — AFP

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