Paris talks resume in drive for Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal

Palestinians dismiss Netanyahu’s plans for post-war arrangements in Gaza

Talks resumed in Paris on Friday to clinch an agreement on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal to be implemented during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10th.

CIA director William Burns, Qatari prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, and Israeli and Egyptian intelligence chiefs are taking part in the discussions.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has finally presented his proposals for postwar arrangements in Gaza to the security cabinet.

Under the plan, in the immediate term, the Israeli military will continue to wage the war until its objectives are reached. In the medium-term, Israel will maintain security control indefinitely and the coastal enclave will be completely demilitarised.


Israel will impose what was termed a “southern closure” on the Gaza-Egypt border to prevent smuggling, under the proposals. Civilian administration and responsibility for public order will be based, as much as possible, on local figures with administrative experience who have no affiliation with countries or organisations that support terrorism.

The Palestinian Authority said the Netanyahu plan aimed to perpetuate Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said: “Gaza will be part of the independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and any other plan is doomed to fail.”

The foreign ministry in Ramallah stated that the plan is “a formal declaration of the return of the occupation to the Gaza Strip, and an attempt to gain more time to implement the expulsion plan”.

A western diplomat said that both sides at the Paris talks want a pause and are now willing to make concessions. An Egyptian official said that the mediators had succeeded in lowering some of Hamas and Israel’s demands.

Under the emerging framework, women, elderly and ill hostages would be released during an initial 45-day truce during which talks will take place on a permanent ceasefire in return for the release of the rest of the hostages.

Fighting continued on Friday in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis but war cabinet minister Benny Gantz made it clear that the Israeli forces will also attack Rafah at the southern tip of Gaza, where more than one million war refugees have sought shelter.

“Fighting will continue in the future deep in enemy territory, we will reach wherever Hamas terrorists are, we will be in Rafah,” he said.

Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across Gaza Strip overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others were wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

The Israeli military said it had killed dozens of militants and seized weapons across Gaza since Thursday.

Air strikes also killed civilians overnight in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, one of the few other areas yet to be stormed by the Israelis.

More than 29,500 people have been killed in Gaza said the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th and more than 250 kidnapped, 134 of whom are still in Gaza.

On Day 140 of the war, the Gaza health ministry said that 500,000 people in the northern Gaza Strip are suffering from severe hunger.

According to the ministry, there are 350,000 chronic patients, 60,000 pregnant women and 700,000 children suffering from malnutrition and dehydration across Gaza.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken criticised Israel’s decision to build 3,000 new settlement homes in response to an attack by three Palestinian gunmen on Thursday in which a settler was killed and 13 other Israelis were wounded. “I have to say we’re disappointed,” he said. “This only weakens, and doesn’t strengthen, Israel’s security.”

Far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich described the construction announcement as a “fitting Zionist response”.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

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