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Peace negotiations regarding Gaza Strip to take place in Paris - Reuters

Peace negotiations regarding Gaza Strip to take place in Paris - Reuters Photo: The US and three Middle Eastern countries will hold talks on the Gaza Strip (Getty Images)

On Friday, February 23, Israel will participate in talks in Paris with the United States, Qatar, and Egypt regarding a potential ceasefire agreement and the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, informs Reuters.

The Israeli Security Cabinet has approved the dispatch of negotiators led by the head of the Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, to Paris on Friday for talks regarding a potential agreement to release over 100 hostages abducted from Israel in October, who are still held by the Hamas group.

Sources indicate that the meeting will also include the participation of CIA Director William Burns, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant stated that the country's negotiators engaged in discussions for hostage release are granted expanded powers.

The urgency of diplomatic efforts is increasing ahead of the month-long Islamic holiday of Ramadan, which begins on March 10.

"We're focused intensely on trying to get an agreement that results in the release of the remaining hostages and that produces an extended humanitarian ceasefire," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to journalists in Brazil.

US Ambassador to the Middle East Brett McGurk conducted "constructive" meetings in Egypt and Israel on Thursday, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Blinken mentioned that he, Burns, and McGurk "in constant communication and working every aspect of this."

However, a senior Hamas representative, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters that Israel is responsible for the lack of progress and is deviating from the terms it agreed to several weeks ago in a previous ceasefire proposal. "The (Israeli) occupation is not interested in achieving any agreement," he said.

There was no immediate response from Israeli officials. Netanyahu stated that progress would be possible if Hamas showed flexibility.

Hamas reported that Haniyeh concluded his three-day visit to Cairo, where he met with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Kamel. They discussed the cessation of Israeli aggression, assistance to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced individuals to their homes, especially in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, and the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Hamas claims that it will not release the remaining hostages unless Israel agrees to cease hostilities and withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip. Israel states that it will not withdraw its forces until Hamas is eliminated.

Israel-Hamas war

On October 7, 2023, militants from the radical Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip. According to official figures, in the first days of the attacks, militants killed 1200 civilians and soldiers and kidnapped around 250 people.

In late October, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched a ground military operation in the Gaza Strip, which continues to this day. The country's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated that the goal of the operation is the complete destruction of Hamas and the release of hostages.

On February 8, 2023, Netanyahu announced that a total victory for the IDF is imminent. He also reported the readiness of the IDF to commence a ground invasion of the city of Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip.

It's worth noting that Egypt threatens to suspend a key peace treaty with Israel if the country's army enters Rafah.

The latest ceasefire negotiations failed two weeks ago when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Hamas's proposal for a 4.5-month ceasefire as a "deception," which was supposed to conclude with the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

Recently, Israel threatened an offensive on Rafah if Hamas does not release hostages before Ramadan.