Egyptian source: Israeli delegation in Cairo for new hostage talks

Families of hostages in Gaza hold a press conference at 'Hostage Square,' outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum, January 7, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Families of hostages in Gaza hold a press conference at 'Hostage Square,' outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum, January 7, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

An Israeli delegation landed in Cairo today for a new round of talks with Egypt on a possible swap of hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian security prisoners in Israel, an Egyptian official says.

Egypt, the Gulf nation of Qatar and the United States have served as mediators between Israel and Hamas.

It is believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 25 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been meeting with leaders in the Middle East since the weekend, and is expected in Cairo tomorrow.

Efforts to negotiate another swap were reportedly disrupted by the killing of a top Hamas terror chief in Beirut last week, widely blamed on Israel.

The Egyptian official says that Egypt and Qatar were trying to win freedom for civilian hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in return for a ceasefire and the release of additional Palestinian prisoners by Israel. The official speaks on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief reporters.

In addition to civilians, Hamas and other groups also hold Israeli soldiers.

Hamas still insists on ending the war before talking about releasing the rest of the hostages, a demand Israel has rejected outright.

“They (Israel) will never recover their hostages unless all our prisoners in the occupation prisons are released,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said yesterday in Qatar.

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