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Middle East Crisis Live: Hamas Wants Peace Deal But ‘not At Any Price’, Official Says; Thousands Of Israelis Demand Gaza Ceasefire

Hamas wants to reach a deal in truce talks ‘but not at any price’, Palestinian official saysA Palestinian official, close to the ceasefire talks, has said the Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo with a determination to reach a deal “but not at any price”.

“A deal must end the war and get Israeli forces out of Gaza and Israel hasn’t yet committed it was willing to do so,” the official told Reuters.

Another Palestinian official told Reuters the negotiations are “facing challenges because the occupation (Israel) refuses to commit to a comprehensive ceasefire”.

The official added that the Hamas delegation was still in the Egyptian capital in the hope mediators could press Israel to change its position.

Negotiators have consistently struggled to reconcile Hamas’s demand for a lasting ceasefire which would allow the militant group to claim a victory, with the apparent determination of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to force Hamas from power, kill or capture its leadership and destroy all its military capabilities.

Netanyahu’s ministers have publicly sparred on whether to go forward with a truce proposal: far-right members of his coalition have threatened to quit the government if Israel is seen to “surrender” to Hamas’s demands, while centrists have said they will quit if a hostage deal isn’t struck.

Egyptian sources told the Wall Street Journal that Israel would give the truce talks another week, after which it would launch its long-threatened offensive on Rafah.

Hamas seized about 250 hostages during the surprise attack into southern Israel in October. About half are still held in Gaza, with many thought to be in or under Rafah.

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Israeli cabinet moves to close Al Jazeera’s local operations in IsraelBenjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet has voted unanimously to close Qatari television network Al Jazeera’s operations in Israel, according to a government statement.

The statement did not specify when the closure would take place.

The cabinet vote came after Israel’s parliament passed a law allowing the temporary closure in Israel of foreign broadcasters considered to be a threat to national security during the war in Gaza.

Al Jazeera, which has been fiercely critical of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, has previously accused Israel of systematically targeting its offices and personnel.

In 2022, Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces while reporting in Jenin, located in the occupied West Bank.

In January, Al Jazeera accused Israel of the targeted killing of two of its journalists in Gaza.

Israel has frequently clashed with Al Jazeera, which maintains offices in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Israeli officials have accused the network of anti-Israeli bias, a charge the network denies.

With foreign journalists banned from entering Gaza, Al Jazeera staff based in the Gaza Strip have been among the few reporters able to cover the war on the ground.

The network has vowed to persist in its reporting with “boldness and professionalism”.

Death toll in Gaza reaches 34,683, says health ministryAt least 34,683 Palestinian people have been killed and 78,018 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Most of the casualties have been women and children, the health ministry has said, and thousands more bodies are likely to remain uncounted under rubble across Gaza.

An AFP correspondent and witnesses have today 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.

As we have been reporting, negotiators have resumed long-running ceasefire talks in Cairo – brokered by Egypt and Qatar – on pausing Israel’s war in return for freeing hostages.

Reuters is reporting that Israel has given a preliminary nod to terms that one source said included the return of between 20 and 33 hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and a truce of several weeks.

That would leave about 100 hostages in Gaza, some of whom Israel says have died in captivity. The source told Reuters their return may require an additional deal.

Hamas wants to reach a deal in truce talks ‘but not at any price’, Palestinian official saysA Palestinian official, close to the ceasefire talks, has said the Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo with a determination to reach a deal “but not at any price”.

“A deal must end the war and get Israeli forces out of Gaza and Israel hasn’t yet committed it was willing to do so,” the official told Reuters.

Another Palestinian official told Reuters the negotiations are “facing challenges because the occupation (Israel) refuses to commit to a comprehensive ceasefire”.

The official added that the Hamas delegation was still in the Egyptian capital in the hope mediators could press Israel to change its position.

Negotiators have consistently struggled to reconcile Hamas’s demand for a lasting ceasefire which would allow the militant group to claim a victory, with the apparent determination of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to force Hamas from power, kill or capture its leadership and destroy all its military capabilities.

Netanyahu’s ministers have publicly sparred on whether to go forward with a truce proposal: far-right members of his coalition have threatened to quit the government if Israel is seen to “surrender” to Hamas’s demands, while centrists have said they will quit if a hostage deal isn’t struck.

Egyptian sources told the Wall Street Journal that Israel would give the truce talks another week, after which it would launch its long-threatened offensive on Rafah.

Hamas seized about 250 hostages during the surprise attack into southern Israel in October. About half are still held in Gaza, with many thought to be in or under Rafah.

US House Democrats tell Biden of evidence showing Israel is restricting Gaza aidSeveral dozen House Democrats have signed a letter asking the US president, Joe Biden, warning him that there is evidence to show that Israel has violated US law by restricting humanitarian aid flows into Gaza.

A letter to Biden signed by 86 Democrats said Israel’s aid restrictions “call into question” its assurances that it was complying with a US Foreign Assistance Act provision requiring recipients of US-funded arms to uphold international humanitarian law and allow free flows of US assistance.

The lawmakers said the Israeli government had resisted repeated US requests to open enough sea and land routes for aid to Gaza, and cited reports that it failed to allow in enough food to avert famine, enforced “arbitrary restrictions” on aid and imposed an inspection system that impeded supplies. Israel denies violating international law and limiting aid in its war in Gaza.

“We expect the administration to ensure (Israel’s) compliance with existing law and to take all conceivable steps to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter comes as the chief of the UN’s food programme warned of a “full-blown famine” in northern Gaza despite the improvements, and reiterated calls for a ceasefire.

“There is famine, full-blown famine, in the north, and it’s moving its way south,” said Cindy McCain, executive director of the World Food Programme.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes since 7 October, with the majority being women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Israeli strikes early on Saturday on Gaza killed at least six people, officials said. Three bodies were recovered from the rubble of a building in Rafah and taken to Yousef al-Najjar hospital.

A strike in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza also killed three people, according to hospital officials.

Israeli protesters demand Netanyahu secure Gaza truce for hostages’ returnThousands of Israelis protested on Saturday, demanding the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accept a ceasefire agreement with Hamas that would see the remaining Israeli hostages brought home from Gaza.

Reuters reports that at a rally in Tel Aviv that took place as Hamas officials were meeting Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo, relatives and supporters of the more than 130 hostages still in captivity said anything possible had to be done to bring them home.

“I’m here today to support a deal now, yesterday,” said Natalie Eldor.

We need to bring them back. We need to bring all the hostages back, the live ones, the dead ones. We got to bring them back. We got to switch this government. This has got to end.

The protests, ahead of the Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls this year on 6 May, came as the war in Gaza nears the end of its seventh month amid growing international pressure to stop the fighting.

“The only thing that keeps us going is the hope that Bar is alive and surviving,” said Ora Rubinstein, the aunt of Bar Kupershtein, who was seized along with more than 250 others when Hamas-led gunmen rampaged through Israeli communities near Gaza on 7 October.

Many of those taken hostage are believed to be dead but families want all of those taken to be brought back.

“Everyone must be returned. We will not abandon them as the Jews were abandoned during the Holocaust,” said Hanna Cohen, an aunt of 27-year-old Inbar Haiman, who was initially believed to have been taken hostage on 7 October but was subsequently found to have been killed. Her body is still believed to be being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s government has insisted that it will not stop the war until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are returned but intensive efforts are under way to secure a halt to the fighting that might lead to a full ceasefire.

However, Netanyahu faces pressure from nationalist religious parties in his coalition to refuse a deal with Hamas and go ahead with the long promised offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Hundreds of Israelis protest to demand a hostage swap deal in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty ImagesIsraelis gather in Tel Aviv, calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a prisoner exchange agreement, and the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty ImagesIsraelis demonstrate in Rehovot near Tel Aviv. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty ImagesOpening summaryWelcome to our latest live coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza and the wider Middle East crisis. Here’s a rundown on some of the key developments to bring you up to speed.

Thousands of Israelis protested around the country on Saturday, demanding the government accept a ceasefire agreement with Hamas that would see the remaining Israeli hostages brought home from Gaza.

Protesters in Tel Aviv chanted “war is not holy, life is”, with some people accusing the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of aiming to prolong the war.

At a rally in Tel Aviv, that took place as Hamas officials were meeting Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo, relatives and supporters of the more than 130 hostages still in captivity said anything possible had to be done to bring them home.

The protests, ahead of the Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, came as the war in Gaza nears the end of its seventh month amid growing international pressure to stop the fighting.

A protest in Tel Aviv against Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and demanding the release of hostages held in Gaza. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/APIn other developments in the war:

Hopes of a ceasefire in Gaza rose as a Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Saturday to continue indirect talks, with what is believed to be a response to a new proposal, reportedly agreed by Israel to halt fighting for an initial 40 days and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners. Egyptian and US mediators have reported signs of compromise in recent days and Egyptian state news channel Al-Qahera said on Saturday that a consensus had been reached in the indirect talks over many of the disputed points. But many analysts remain pessimistic after talks over five months that have frequently broken down. A senior Hamas source close to the negotiations told AFP there would be “a new round” of talks on Sunday.

Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in a raid in a village near the city of Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry and the Israeli military said on Saturday. Hamas confirmed that four of the men killed during the raid in Deir al-Ghusun village were from its al-Qassam armed wing. The Palestinian health ministry said their bodies had been taken by the Israeli military. The Israeli military said an officer from a special police unit was wounded in the operation it claimed targeted a Hamas cell responsible for numerous shooting and car bombing attacks.

Israel this week briefed the Joe Biden administration officials on a plan to evacuate Palestinian civilians ahead of a potential operation in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has sought shelter from Israeli bombardment elsewhere. The officials told the Associated Press that the plan detailed by the Israelis did not change the US administration’s view that moving forward with an operation in the southern Gaza city would put too many Palestinian civilians at risk.

Media in Lebanon reported several Israeli attacks in southern areas in the country, including ad-Dhahira and Kafr Kila, Al Jazeera reported.

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