Israel dampens hopes for Gaza ceasefire deal

“Gaps remain between the two sides over the terms for laying down arms,” the Israeli official said. “Israel will not accept any proposal that does not allow for the demilitarization of Gaza.”

An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Israel sees no sign of an imminent breakthrough in the Egyptian-mediated talks aimed at brokering a truce to end over a month of fighting with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel would keep its delegation of mid-level negotiators in Cairo for the time being to pursue the elusive ceasefire deal. However, the comments dampened hopes of a swift resolution to the conflict that has claimed over 2,000 Palestinian and 67 Israeli lives since July 8.

On Monday, the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, said it had agreed to a ceasefire proposal presented by Egyptian and Qatari mediators. The proposed truce was split into three stages, starting with an initial halt in hostilities, followed by Israeli troop withdrawals from Gaza, and eventually addressing Hamas’ demands for open border crossings and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The proposal also called for the release of Israeli civilians held captive in Gaza, though no specifics were given. But Israeli officials swiftly poured cold water on the plan, saying it had rejected the draft due to unacceptable Hamas demands. They did not provide details.

“Gaps remain between the two sides over the terms for laying down arms,” the Israeli official told Reuters. “Israel will not accept any proposal that does not allow for the demilitarization of Gaza.”

Israel has said it must maintain a buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip to stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into its territory. Hamas has demanded an end to the crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the coastal enclave.

The current conflict arose from the killing of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas militants in the occupied West Bank in June, which triggered a spiral of violence that led to the war in Gaza. Israel launched hundreds of air strikes across densely populated Gaza before sending in ground forces on July 17 in an operation it said was aimed at destroying rocket arsenals and attack tunnels used by Hamas.

Egyptian and U.S. mediators have struggled to broker a durable ceasefire that could pave the way for a broader deal addressing the root causes of the conflict. Qatar, which has good relations with Hamas, is also involved in the shuttle diplomacy.

Despite the lack of progress, the Israeli official said both sides remained committed to pursuing a diplomatic solution through Egypt.