GAZA STRIP: Talks to reach a Gaza truce resumed Sunday, a Hamas source said, but public disagreement between the group and Israel intensified over demands to end their seven-month war.

The Hamas delegation had begun meeting with Qatari and Egyptian mediators, the source said.

At around the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a government decision to shut down operations in his country of Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, which has intensely covered the Gaza war. The broadcaster called the decision a “criminal act”.

Netanyahu again rejected Hamas’s demand to end the war and said “surrendering” to this would amount to defeat.

The Qatar-based political chief of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, countered by accusing Netanyahu of sabotaging the talks.

The war’s impact has been increasingly felt around the world as pro-Palestinian university students from Australia to Mexico and Europe follow the example of protest encampments set up in the United States.

Gaza’s bloodiest-ever war began following Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,683 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The latest toll included at least 29 deaths over the previous day, the ministry said.

An AFP correspondent and witnesses on Sunday reported shelling and gunfire in the Gaza City area, helicopter fire in central and southern Gaza, and a missile strike on a house in the Rafah area.

Israel’s military said Sunday air strikes over the past day killed several Hamas including three in central Gaza who had participated in the October attack.

“We hope and pray to God that the negotiations succeed,” Amani al-Sowerki of Gaza City said in Rafah, southern Gaza, expressing hope that she and others displaced by the war will be able to go home.

The Palestinian civilian toll has strained ties between Israel and its main military supplier and ally the United States. Nonetheless, Washington’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that “the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas”.

Negotiators are meeting in Cairo without an Israeli delegation present.

The mediators have proposed a 40-day pause in the fighting and an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, according to details released by Britain.

It would be the first such truce since a week-long November ceasefire saw a hostage-prisoner swap.

Qatari, Egyptian and US mediators met a Hamas delegation in Cairo on Saturday before talks resumed Sunday.

After “no developments” in the first round, a senior Hamas official insisted the group would “not agree under any circumstances” to a truce that did not explicitly include a complete end to the war, including Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

Netanyahu, on trial for corruption charges he denies, leads a coalition which includes religious and ultra-nationalist parties. He faces regular protests at home, including thousands in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, by demonstrators who have accused him of seeking to prolong the war and demanded he reach a deal to bring home hostages still held in Gaza. “We are not ready to accept a situation in which the Hamas battalions come out of their bunkers, take control of Gaza again, rebuild their military infrastructure, and return to threaten the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told his cabinet, a statement from his office said.

He added: “Israel will not agree to Hamas’s demands, which mean surrender, and will continue the fighting until all its goals are achieved.”

Hamas chief Haniyeh said Netanyahu wanted to “invent constant justifications for the continuation of aggression, expanding the circle of conflict, and sabotaging efforts made through various mediators and parties”.


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