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Negotiating team sent to Paris for hostage talks by Israel’s war cabinet

In a significant development amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, Israeli negotiators, led by Mossad Director David Barnea, have embarked on a journey to Paris to engage in talks concerning a potential ceasefire and the release of hostages. This move marks a pivotal shift towards substantive negotiations, following recent meetings in Cairo where Israeli representatives primarily listened to proposals.

The departure of the negotiating team to Paris was confirmed by an Israeli official on Friday. It is anticipated that high-profile figures including CIA Director Bill Burns, alongside counterparts from Egypt and Qatar, will convene in Paris for discussions. However, official confirmation of Israel’s attendance is pending.

This decision to dispatch the negotiating team came after a war cabinet meeting, subsequent to a day that witnessed US President Joe Biden’s Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk engaging in discussions with top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli government had been awaiting confirmation regarding the delivery of medication to hostages in Gaza before consenting to resume negotiations. Encouraged by positive indications from talks in Cairo and nudged by US officials, Israel’s decision to send a negotiating team to Paris underscores a renewed push for progress.

These developments come against the backdrop of the Biden administration’s efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict before the onset of Ramadan next month. Senior US officials view the release of over 100 Israeli hostages from Gaza as pivotal to achieving a temporary cessation of hostilities.

However, discussions on the hostage deal are clouded by Israel’s threat to launch an offensive into Rafah in southern Gaza if a deal is not reached by the commencement of Ramadan on March 10. Such an escalation could exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where civilians bear the brunt of the violence.

Simultaneously, Hamas leaders are engaged in talks in Cairo to advance the negotiation process. Key points of contention include Hamas’ demands for prisoner releases, withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and discussions leading to a formal end to the conflict.

As tensions persist, Israel’s warning of advancing its planned offensive in Rafah underscores the urgency of reaching a resolution. This escalation threatens to worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where essential services such as hospitals face acute shortages of supplies.

Israel initiated its military offensive in response to attacks by Hamas in southern Israel last October. Since then, the conflict has exacted a heavy toll, claiming thousands of lives and inflicting immense suffering on Palestinians in Gaza.

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