Hamas delegation due in Cairo to look at Egyptian ceasefire proposal

Netanyahu cancels cabinet meeting on post-war planning as US pleas for scale back of fighting

A Hamas delegation is due in Cairo on Friday to look at an Egyptian plan for a ceasefire in the war in Gaza.

The plan was put last week to officials of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which is also battling Israeli forces in the territory. Sources close to Hamas say Cairo’s three-stage plan provides for renewable ceasefires, a staggered release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and ultimately a ceasefire to end the war sparked by the deadly October 7th attack on Israel, Agence France-Presse reports.

Hamas is “open to any ideas or proposals for a complete and final cessation of aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip”, an official with the Palestinian militant group has said. Osama Hamdan, at a press conference on Thursday, said Hamas is not interested in a “partial or temporary cessation of aggression”, adding that the remaining hostages held in Gaza would only be released after a permanent ceasefire is implemented.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled a war cabinet meeting that was scheduled for Thursday night to discuss Israel’s plan for Gaza after the war with Hamas ends. Since October 7th more than 21,000 people have been killed in the coastal strip, according to the latest official figures.


Israel continues its relentless bombardment of Gaza in spite of pleas from its closest ally, the United States, to scale back the fighting and prepare for the next stage of its war with Hamas, the militant group that has governed Gaza since 2007.

It is expected that Israel will move to the next phase the war next month, replacing the current intense operations with targeted incursions after most troops withdraw from the coastal enclave.

Mr Netanyahu has ruled out an Israeli occupation of the strip or any role for Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but he has not stated who should run Gaza after the Israeli withdrawal.

The deliberations come as minister for strategic affairs Ron Dermer returned from Washington where he discussed the matter with top Biden administration officials.

Fierce clashes continued across Gaza on Thursday with residents reporting Israeli tanks in the central refugee camps and clashes in the northern outskirts of Rafah, close to the border with Egypt, where more than one million displaced people have fled.

The Hamas-run Gaza ministry for health reports that more than 21,300 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the war and more than 55,000 wounded. It comes after some 1,200 people were killed on October 7th, according to Israel, and 240 kidnapped when Hamas-led gunmen infiltrated into Israel from Gaza and entered 22 communities close to the border.

The Israeli military has confirmed that the use of the wrong munition led to “extensive collateral damage” during a strike in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza on December 24th.

Palestinian sources say at least 70 people were killed in the attack. The Israel Defense Forces said it “regrets the harm to uninvolved individuals, and is working to draw lessons from the incident”.

Israeli troops killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza on December 15th when it mistook their cries for help as a ruse by Hamas militants to draw them into an ambush, the military said on Thursday, concluding that the soldiers acted rightly to the best of their understanding.

The military immediately took responsibility for killing the three hostages. It published its findings on Thursday and concluded “that there was no malice in the event, and the soldiers carried out the right action to the best of their understanding of the event at that moment”.

The statement said that army chief gen Herzi Halevi had “emphasised the utmost importance of adhering to standard operating procedures”.

“In a situation where there is no immediate threat and the identification is not a clear enemy, there is a need for a moment of examination before firing, given the opportunity,” he said.

The killing of the three hostages when they approached Israeli troops in the Shejaiya area of Gaza City, shook Israelis.

Another hostage was confirmed to have been killed on Thursday. American-Israeli Judy Weinstein Haggai (70) from kibbutz Nir Oz went missing while on a morning walk with her husband on October 7th. Her husband, Gadi, was confirmed dead last week. Both bodies were still being held by Hamas. More than 100 hostages were released during a truce in November, and more than 20 of those taken on October 7th are known to have died.

Thousands of teenagers who set out on a march from Tel Aviv on Sunday reached the Knesset parliament building in Jerusalem on Thursday where they held a rally to press for the immediate release of all hostages still in captivity as a top priority.

In a separate development, a United Nations (UN) report found that West Bank Palestinians live in constant fear of violence from Israeli troops and settlers. From January 1st to December 27th this year, the UN verified the deaths of 492 Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces, the highest number since the it began keeping records.

There was also a sharp rise in the number of attacks by settlers on Palestinian residents in the weeks following the October 7th Hamas attack, including shootings, burning of homes and vehicles and uprooting of olive trees, a major source of livelihood for many Palestinian families, the report said.

UN human rights chief Volker Türk called for an end to settler violence and urged Israeli authorities to “strongly censure and prevent settler violence and prosecute both its instigators and perpetrators”.

Israeli troops raided nine West Bank money change offices on Wednesday night and seized large amounts of cash, safes and office equipment. The army said the funds were intended for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

According to Palestinian reports, one Palestinian was killed and 20 were wounded during the raids.

As cross-border exchanges of fire continued between Israel and Hizbullah in south Lebanon, an Indonesian soldier with the Unifil peacekeeping force was injured when a patrol was attacked by residents as it tried to move through a village, the UN mission said on Thursday.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, has threatened to ramp up military action in the north to push Hizbullah forces further away from the border. – Additional reporting Guardian

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem