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Mediators are in Cairo working to secure a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas

Members of the Israeli military work at a staging area near the border of Gaza during a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November.
Spencer Platt
Getty Images
Members of the Israeli military work at a staging area near the border of Gaza during a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in November.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Officials from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the U.S. are meeting in Cairo for negotiations around a second cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hostages being held by Hamas.

The talks in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday were expected to center on a plan that would pause the fighting in Gaza for up to six weeks, and clear the way for another exchange of Palestinian prisoners and Israeli hostages.

The high-stakes meeting is taking place as Israel signals it may soon launch a ground invasion in Rafah, on the southern tip of Gaza, where nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

On Monday, the Israeli military said special forces rescued two hostages from a complex in Rafah, but Gaza health officials said the raid resulted in the deaths of at least 74 people.

Rafah is on Gaza's border with Egypt, which has threatened to suspend its peace treaty with Israel in the event of a major offensive on Rafah.

Regional de-escalation

Among the U.S. officials who were expected in Cairo for Tuesday's negotiations was C.I.A. director William J. Burns. Since the start of the war, the U.S. has dispatched several high-level envoys to the region in hopes of securing a diplomatic breakthrough, but those efforts have proven an uphill climb.

Speaking from the White House on Monday, President Biden said key elements of a plan were "on the table," but said "gaps remain" as he encouraged parties to keep working toward a deal.

Biden reiterated his support for Israel in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants that killed 1,200 people. Some 134 hostages are still being held by Hamas, with the public outcry to bring them home putting increasing pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At the same time, Biden also spoke more extensively about the "unimaginable pain and loss" by civilians in Gaza. More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched its offensive into the territory, according to health officials in Gaza. And with the war entering its fifth month, the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with widespread reports of shortages of food, clean water and medical supplies.

Biden has emphasized that Israel should not proceed with a military operation in Rafah without a "credible plan" for the safety of the more than 1 million people sheltering there.

An earlier cease-fire in November, which was mediated by Qatar, resulted in the release of 50 hostages from Gaza in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. It also allowed for some humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, which had been essentially blocked off from aid since Oct.7.

The cease-fire was originally negotiated for four days but was twice extended.

Hamas, which was not expected to attend the negotiations in Cairo, rejected an Israeli proposal earlier this month because it did not include the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops. Prime Minister Netanyahu last week rejected the counter offer, which would leave Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip as "delusional."

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D. Parvaz
D. Parvaz is an editor at Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, she worked at several news organizations covering wildfires, riots, earthquakes, a nuclear meltdown, elections, political upheaval and refugee crises in several countries.