The latest round of negotiations between Israel and Hamas hit an impasse on Sunday as mediators struggled to bridge remaining gaps and a Hamas delegation departed the talks in Cairo, according to two senior Hamas officials and two other officials familiar with the talks. An Israeli official also confirmed the negotiations had stalled and described them as being in “crisis.”

For months, the negotiations aimed at achieving a cease-fire and a release of hostages have made little progress, but signs the two sides were coming closer to an agreement appeared over the last week. Israel backed off some of its long-held demands and a top Hamas official said the group was studying the latest Israeli offer with a “positive spirit.”

But the setback over the weekend meant Palestinians living in miserable conditions in Gaza would not experience an imminent reprieve and the families of hostages held by militants would have to wait longer for the freedom of their loved ones.

The main obstacle in the talks was the duration of a cease-fire, with Hamas demanding it be permanent and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel expressing openness to only a temporary halt in the fighting.

Hamas blamed the lack of progress on Mr. Netanyahu, who vowed again in recent days that the Israeli army will invade Rafah, the southernmost town in the Gaza Strip, with or without an agreement.

“We were very close, but Netanyahu’s narrow-mindedness aborted an agreement,” Mousa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said in a phone interview.

source

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