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Israel and Hamas to resume negotiations after weeks of fighting

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Israel is sending a delegation to resume negotiations on Friday following weeks of deadlock over a cease-fire deal in Gaza, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed, as a senior U.S. administration official hailed “a breakthrough on a critical impasse.”

The development came amid mounting fears that the already simmering front between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon could soon explode.

The U.S. official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Thursday that Hamas made “a pretty significant adjustment” to its position on a potential cease-fire deal with Israel and that Israeli negotiators could arrive in Doha as early as Friday.

The official added that a “framework is now in place” but cautioned that “this is not a deal that is going to come together in a period of days. There’s still work to do.”

Netanyahu told President Biden in a phone call Thursday that he had authorized the delegation’s return to hostage negotiations, his office said.

Biden welcomed the Israeli decision, according to a readout from the White House, which said that the two leaders also discussed “the recent response received from Hamas,” without providing further details.

Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed militia and political party Hezbollah, met with Hezbollah leaders to discuss the situation in Gaza and the latest developments on the negotiations and cease-fire proposal, the movement’s Al-Manar outlet reported Friday.

The day before, Hezbollah fired some 200 rockets into northern Israel in retaliation for Israel’s killing of one of the militant group’s senior commanders. The barrage was the biggest in a steadily escalating exchange of fire between the two sides since Oct. 7.

Biden announced the three-stage cease-fire proposal, which he described as “truly a decisive moment,” in May and urged both sides to approve the deal. The United Nations Security Council also gave its backing to the proposal.

But in the weeks that followed, the deal appeared to falter.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in mid-June that the proposal was “virtually identical” to one Hamas put forward on May 6, but he said that Hamas was now asking for a number of changes.

The three-phase plan includes a six-week initial stage with a cease-fire and a surge in humanitarian aid. Israeli forces would withdraw from all populated areas, and female, elderly and wounded hostages held in Gaza would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. All remaining U.S. hostages would also be released.

If no violations occurred, the six-week cease-fire would continue until an agreement was reached on a “permanent” truce, which would include a complete Israeli withdrawal and the release of remaining hostages.

Plans for the “day after” the war have remained elusive, but the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, has been put forth as a likely option to govern the Gaza Strip.

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, said at a conference in Madrid on Thursday that the Palestinian Authority in Gaza would “need to be empowered by some form of an international force that could come in under U.N. mandate.”

Hamas on Friday denounced that idea, saying in a statement that it rejects “any statements and positions that support plans for foreign forces to enter the Strip under any name or justification.”

It added that the governance of the Gaza Strip is “a purely Palestinian affair.” The Palestinian people “will not allow any guardianship, or the imposition of any external solutions or equations,” Hamas said.

In the meantime, Israeli strikes have continued in the enclave, including on a house in the central Nuseirat refugee camp and a U.N. school in the northern Jabalya refugee camp, according to local reports.

The Israel Defense Forces said it “struck over 50 terror targets” in the Strip over the last day and is continuing its “operational activity” around the southern city of Rafah, Shejaiya in the north and central refugee camps.

At least seven Palestinians were killed in an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Israeli military said on social media Friday that its forces surrounded a house in Jenin and exchanged fire with militants, while an Israeli aircraft struck “several” armed individuals in the area. The Israel Defense Forces later said the military was conducting “counterterrorism activity” after the death of an Israeli soldier during an operation in Jenin last week. The United Nations’ humanitarian agency said earlier this week that at least 77 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed in airstrikes on the West Bank since Oct. 7.

In a letter to the prime minister, Israel’s attorney general accused National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of blocking the transfer of Gazans still held at the notorious Israeli detention center, Sde Teiman. Last month, the IDF said it would turn detainees over to Israel’s prison authority in response to a High Court hearing of a petition filed by rights groups that said alleged abuse and torture at the southern detention site could constitute war crimes.

Looters ransacked Khan Younis’s European Hospital days after Israel issued evacuation orders for the area and patients and medical staff fled, according to Saleh al-Hams, head of the hospital’s nursing department. Hams said by phone that around 1,000 solar panels from the roof, 400 hospital beds, furniture from the hospital’s nursing college and toilets were taken. “The looters responsible for the theft are known, but there is no police force available to recover the stolen items, which are now being sold on the market,” he said. The IDF issued the evacuation order for the area on July 1, but later clarified that it did not include the medical facility, one of Gaza’s last partially functioning hospitals

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that further disruption to health services in Gaza is “imminent” because of “a severe lack” of fuel. Only 90,000 liters of fuel entered Gaza on Wednesday, he wrote on X on Thursday, while the health sector alone requires 80,000 liters per day. Tedros added that the situation was forcing the United Nations and its partners operating in Gaza “to make impossible choices.”

Britain woke up to a new prime minister on Friday — but the country’s foreign policy is unlikely to change under the center-left, social democratic Labour Party, as The Washington Post reports. Party leader Keir Starmer has said Britain will support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, while calling for a cease-fire.

At least 38,011 people have been killed and 87,445 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 323 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.




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