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Hamas Leader in Egypt for Talks as Gaza War Sides Consider Pause in Fighting

FILE - In this photo released by Lebanese government, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, speaks during a press conference in Lebanon, June 28, 2021. Hamas said Haniyeh is in Cairo to discuss the war in Gaza.
FILE - In this photo released by Lebanese government, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, speaks during a press conference in Lebanon, June 28, 2021. Hamas said Haniyeh is in Cairo to discuss the war in Gaza.

Hamas said its top leader Ismail Haniyeh is in Cairo Wednesday to discuss the war in Gaza with Egyptian officials.

Egypt has previously played a role in mediating between Hamas and Israel, including a temporary, week-long cease-fire in late November that included the militant group releasing more than 100 hostages.

Negotiations have taken place regarding a new pause in fighting that would involve Hamas releasing more hostages, but the warring sides have not agreed to a deal.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog told a gathering of international diplomats Tuesday that Israel is prepared to enter into a further humanitarian pause in return for the release of its hostages. He also said Israel is not fighting the Palestinian people, only Hamas.

Fighting continued Wednesday in Gaza, with the Israeli military saying it had attacked more than 300 targets during the past day.

Wednesday also brought another planned vote in the U.N. Security Council on a resolution calling for a pause in fighting to facilitate scaled-up aid deliveries to Gazans in dire need of food, water and medicine.

The vote had been expected Monday but has been pushed back twice amid negotiations about the text as its drafter, the United Arab Emirates, sought support for the resolution.

The draft resolution in its current form seen by VOA "demands" that the parties to the conflict "allow, facilitate and enable the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip" by the most direct routes. It also "calls for the urgent suspension of hostilities" to allow safe and unhindered aid access.

The text also authorizes a U.N. monitoring mechanism to confirm the humanitarian nature of aid shipments into Gaza through multiple entry points.

An attempt to adopt a resolution in the council on Dec. 8 calling for a humanitarian cease-fire failed due to the United States using its veto.

As the vote was pushed from Tuesday morning to early afternoon, U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Bob Wood told reporters, "We are still working on it."

The vote was then delayed until Wednesday.

UAE envoy Lana Nusseibeh said to reporters, "Ultimately, the endpoint is a cease-fire, but as you know, that was not adopted recently. So, we have to move to the space that allows humanitarian workers to work safely and at scale."

"Calls for a cease-fire on human rights and humanitarian grounds are getting louder by the day and must be heeded," Volker Türk, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told reporters Tuesday in Geneva.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which governs Gaza, after Hamas fighters crossed into southern Israel on Oct. 7. Israel said 1,200 people were killed and some 240 captives taken in the terror attack. More than 100 of the hostages remain in Gaza.

The Israeli response has killed more than 19,600 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Israel says 132 of its soldiers have died in its ground offensive.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says the conflict has forced an estimated 85% of Gaza's population from their homes, with many of them trying to find a safe place to stay at U.N. shelters in southern Gaza that are several times over their intended capacity.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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