Gaza truce talks in Paris reportedly making ‘significant progress’

Efforts to broker a truce appeared to regain momentum after a senior U.S. envoy for the Middle East met with Israeli leaders.

Gaza truce talks in Paris reportedly making ‘significant progress’

Talks about a humanitarian cease-fire with representatives of Israel made “significant progress” in Paris on Saturday, Israeli media reported.

“The talks are progressing” and as “all parties are showing flexibility, a deal can be reached before [the holy month of] Ramadan,” which starts on March 10, Haaretz reported, citing a foreign diplomat.

The head of the Mossad intelligence service, David Barnea, is leading the Israeli delegation in the discussions with U.S., Qatari and Egyptian officials. The latter two are bringing an understanding reached with Hamas leaders that calls for a six-week cease-fire and the release of elderly and sick hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, the Associated Press reported.

These talks come as air strikes killed about a hundred people in the Gaza Strip on Friday, according to Hamas.

International efforts to broker a truce appeared to regain momentum this week after Brett McGurk, a senior U.S. envoy for the Middle East, met with Israeli leaders.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a postwar plan that would seek open-ended control over security and civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip. The plan was immediately rejected by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, also presented on Thursday a plan for building 3,300 new homes in settlements in the West Bank in response to the Oct. 7 attack by the Hamas.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacted on Friday, saying Washington was “disappointed” about this plan, adding that new settlements are “inconsistent with international law,” according to media reports.

“Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment this only weakens, doesn’t strengthen, Israel’s security,” Blinken said. The Trump administration had reversed U.S. policy to declare that settlements did not violate international law.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby also said on Friday that “whatever post-conflict Gaza looks like, the Palestinian people should have a voice and a vote in what that looks like, through a revitalized Palestinian Authority.”

Kirby added that the United States “don’t believe in any reduction of the size of Gaza” and “will continue to be very vocal about the fact that we don’t want to see any forcible displacement of Palestinians outside Gaza.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. agency in charge of Palestinian affairs said it has been forced to pause aid deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip, according to media reports. It is not “possible to conduct proper humanitarian operations” in northern Gaza, the agency — the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — was quoted as saying.

The U.N. began warning of “pockets of famine” in Gaza last month, with needs particularly acute in the north. Conditions have steadily worsened since, causing a rise in the number of hungry people making fraught attempts to claim aid from passing trucks, according to the reports.