Hamas Says "No Progress" In Gaza Truce Talks Despite Reports Of Headway

"There is no change in the position of the occupation and therefore, there is nothing new in the Cairo talks," the Hamas official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. "There is no progress yet."

Hamas seized 253 people during an October 7, cross-border killing spree in southern Israel

Cairo, Egypt:

A Hamas official said on Monday no progress was made at a new round of Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo also attended by delegations from Israel, Qatar and the U.S., shortly after Egyptian sources said headway had been achieved on the agenda.

Western powers have voiced outrage over what they see as an unacceptably high Palestinian civilian death count and humanitarian crisis in Gaza arising from Israel's military onslaught to destroy Hamas in tiny, densely populated Gaza.

Israel and Hamas sent teams to Egypt on Sunday after the arrival on Saturday of CIA Director William Burns, whose presence underlined rising U.S. pressure for a deal that would free hostages held in Gaza and get aid to stricken civilians.

"There is no change in the position of the occupation and therefore, there is nothing new in the Cairo talks," the Hamas official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

"There is no progress yet."

Six months into its offensive against Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas that has devastated Gaza and left most of its 2.3 million people homeless and many at risk of famine, Israel also voiced cautious optimism about the latest negotiations.

In Jerusalem at the weekend, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz described the Cairo talks as the closest the sides have come to a deal since a November truce under which Hamas freed dozens of hostages.

Hamas seized 253 people during an Oct. 7, cross-border killing spree in southern Israel that ignited the war. Of those, 129 hostages remain, and negotiators have spoken of around 40 going free in the first stage of a prospective deal with Hamas.

Two Egyptian security sources and Al-Qahera News said progress had been made in the Cairo talks.

The security sources said both sides had made concessions that could help pave the way for a deal for a truce which - as proposed during previous talks - would be staggered over three stages, with the release of any remaining Israeli hostages and a long-term ceasefire addressed in the second stage.

The concessions relate to the freeing of hostages and Hamas' demand for the return of displaced residents to northern Gaza, they said. Mediators suggested the return could be monitored by an Arab force in the presence of Israeli security deployments that would later be pulled back, they added.

Delegations left Cairo and consultations were expected to continue within 48 hours, the sources and Al-Qahera said.

'Main Demands'

However, a Palestinian official close to mediation efforts told Reuters that deadlock continued over Israel's refusal to end the war, withdraw its forces from Gaza, allow all civilians to return to their homes and lift a 17-year-old blockade to allow speedy reconstruction of the coastal enclave.

These steps took precedence over Israel's prime demand for a release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Regarding the exchange of prisoners, Hamas was and is willing to be more flexible, but there is no flexibility over our...main demands," he told Reuters.

Israel has ruled out winding up the war shortly or withdrawing from Gaza, saying its forces will not relent until Hamas no longer controls Gaza or threatens Israel militarily.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not yield to "extreme" Hamas demands, though Israeli officials have signalled willingness to allow some Palestinians to return to northern Gaza.

Hamas killed 1,200 people in its rampage into southern Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies. More than 33,100 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli response, Gaza authorities say, while Israel's army says over 600 of its soldiers have been killed in combat.

Under global pressure to ease Gaza's humanitarian crisis and drop plans to storm Rafah, a town on the southern border with Egypt packed with over a million displaced people, Israel said on Sunday it had pulled more soldiers from southern Gaza.

This left just one brigade there, but Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the exiting troops would be preparing for future operations, including "their coming mission in the Rafah area".

Rafah is the last refuge for displaced Gaza civilians from Israeli ground forces and, according to Israel, the last significant redoubt of Hamas combat units.

Israel carried out at least five more airstrikes on Rafah on Monday, causing a number of injuries, residents said.

The Cairo talks stirred unease among Netanyahu's ultra-nationalist partners who want no let-up in the Gaza offensive. Far-right police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that if Netanyahu ended the war "without a broad assault on Rafah to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue as prime minister".

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)