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CIA director, Israel and Hamas leave Egypt talks with no deal reached

After representatives of Hamas and the United States left Cairo, the Israeli delegation also departed on Thursday as sources told Kan news agency that "irreconcilable gaps" had emerged between the parties.
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Both the Israeli and the Hamas delegations as well as CIA director Bill Burns left Cairo on Thursday with no deal reached on a cease-fire or hostage release, hours after US President Joe Biden threatened to stop weapons shipments to Israel if it invades Rafah

Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, confirmed in a post on Telegram that the delegation has left the Egyptian capital and is on its way to Qatar, where the group's political wing is based. 

Separately, Burns, who has been in the region since Saturday, also left Cairo on Thursday morning and is on his way back to the United States. The Israeli delegation departed later on Thursday, with sources telling Israel's Kan public broadcaster that "irreconcilable gaps" have emerged between the parties during the talks. The Israeli cabinet is scheduled to meet Thursday night. 

The departures come as another indication that a deal is not close. On Monday, Hamas said it accepted a proposal for a six-week cease-fire, the release of 33 hostages both alive and dead and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel would free 30 Palestinian prisoners for each female civilian hostage released. 

Israel rejected those terms, including Hamas' insistence that it choose which Palestinian prisoners are released from Israeli jails without an Israeli veto. Israel had made it clear before the first deal was struck last November that all living hostages must be released before the return of bodies. Israeli authorities confirmed Tuesday that at least 38 of the 132 hostages still held in Gaza are no longer alive.

US National Security Council coordinator John Kirby confirmed to reporters Thursday that Burns was on his way back to the United States and that gaps remain between the two sides. "The teams are still in Cairo. And it doesn’t mean we’re giving up hope," he said, adding, "We still believe that there’s a path forward, but it’s going to take leadership and courage on both sides."

Responding to Biden's comments Wednesday night on potentially blocking arms to Israel, Kirby said, “The US will continue to provide Israel with all the necessities it needs to defend itself, but not specific weapons for a specific mission," referring to a full-scale military push in Rafah. Kirby reiterated that Biden's position is "consistent with how he has expressed himself to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to Israeli officials."

Kirby added, "We proposed alternative methods of defeating Hamas that do not involve a major ground operation in Rafah, and those conversations with the Israeli government are ongoing." 

On Wednesday night, a source familiar with the Cairo talks told Al Qahera News TV, which is linked to Egyptian intelligence, that “Egypt continues its efforts to achieve a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and there are signs that the agreement is maturing.” 

Egyptian news outlets also reported that the permanent cease-fire clause, rejected by Israel, would be amended to "return to sustainable calm until a permanent cease-fire is reached." 

Burns had returned to Cairo late on Wednesday after meeting with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

According to Israeli reports, Burns told Netanyahu that he still sees an opportunity for a deal with Hamas.

In stark contrast, an unnamed Israeli official told Reuters on Wednesday that Israel does not see any sign of breakthrough in the Cairo talks.

The negotiations in Cairo came after the Israeli military intensified its strikes in Rafah amid mounting pressure on Israel to stop its campaign.

Citing data from the Health Ministry in Gaza, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Wednesday that 109 Palestinians were killed and 296 injured in Rafah between Monday and Wednesday.

Israel has been waging a devastating air and ground campaign against the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7 in the aftermath of Hamas’ surprise assault on southern Israel, during which militants killed nearly 1,200 people and took over 240 others hostage.

Hamas released a total of 110 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails were freed during a brief seven-day truce late last November.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, the majority of them women and children, and over 78,000 others injured, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

This developing story has been updated since initial publication.