Israel opens 20 bakeries, restores water pipeline to Gaza amid fears of Cairo talks failing

Hamas delegation arrives in Egypt for the next round of ceasefire talks

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/ A drone view shows Palestinians, who were displaced by Israel's military offensive, gathering to have their Iftar (breaking of the fast) during the holy month of Ramadan, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip | Reuters

The United Nations has said that Israel has reopened 20 bakeries in the northern Gaza Strip and restored a waterline to the area on Friday, a day after it promised to allow humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave. The Nahal Oz waterline in northern Gaza was shut off on October 9, with the outbreak of war.

Israel's announcement came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a tense phone conversation with US President Joe Biden on Thursday. Biden is said to have issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu to protect Palestinian civilians and foreign aid workers in Gaza or Washington could rein in support for Israel in its war against Hamas militants.

Following this, Israel announced the Erez Gate in northern Gaza would be temporarily re-opened. The Ashdod Port will also be temporarily opened for humanitarian deliveries. Israel will also increase the amount of aid from Jordan moving through the Kerem Shalom crossing. 

According to the UN humanitarian coordinator for Gaza and the West Bank, Jamie McGoldrick, a better functioning coordination cell will be established that links humanitarians directly with the IDF Southern Command. 

McGoldrick added that the number of trucks allowed to pass through from Jordan will be increased from 25 to at least 50 per day, while an additional 100 trucks per day will be scanned via the Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings in the south of the Strip. He said that an additional scanner would be installed at Kerem Shalom to accelerate the transfer of aid into Gaza.

Ceasefire talks today

The ceasefire talks are being held in Cairo on Sunday, which will see the participation of the Hamas delegation led by the group's deputy chief in Gaza Khalil Al-Hayya.

The talks are being mediated by the Egyptian officials. CIA Director Bill Burns arrived in Cairo on Saturday for the talks while Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and an Israeli delegation were expected to take part in the talks as well.

Hamas is sticking to its demands, which include a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, a return of the displaced, and a "serious" exchange deal of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages being held in Gaza. "Hamas confirms its adherence to the position it presented on March 14 … and we will not back down from this position," it said in a statement.

However, Israeli local media reports quoting diplomatic sources said the talks could end up being an empty show. "Hamas believes it can force a ceasefire on Israel without releasing hostages because of the international pressure on us, and because of the internal crisis between Israel and the US. The departure of a senior delegation to Cairo, without a compromise on Hamas’s part, will raise false hopes among the families and it will be an empty show," the sources said.

Though Biden had reportedly written to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar urging them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree to and abide by a deal, Israel fears the mediators are yet to do so. 

A senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Friday that Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, is dragging his feet and does not want a deal, despite Israel’s tremendous flexibility. "No pressure [on Hamas] is being jointly applied by the Qatar-led mediators. Qatar has refrained from deporting the Hamas leaders it hosts, nor has it closed their bank accounts, which hold hundreds of millions of dollars used for terrorism," the senior Israeli official asserted. 


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