Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

JERUSALEM   -  Is­rael’s war cabinet has dis­cussed the next steps for nego­tiations towards a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desper­ate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip. An Israeli delegation that had travelled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabi­net on Saturday night, accord­ing to official and local media reports. National security ad­viser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly be­fore the meeting that the “del­egation has returned from Par­is, there is probably room to move towards an agreement”. Prime Minister Benjamin Net­anyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations”. Local media lat­er reported that the meeting had concluded with the cab­inet agreeing to send a del­egation to Qatar in the com­ing days to continue the talks. As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal. Domes­tic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostag­es Square” to demand swift­er action. “We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablon­ka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7. An­ti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanya­hu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them. “They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) econ­omy, whether it’s peace with our neighbours,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the govern­ment, adding “It looks like they never want to end the war”.

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