Israeli Cabinet member meets US officials as ceasefire talks get under way

A top member of Israel’s wartime Cabinet is meeting with US officials in Washington while talks are under way in Egypt to broker a ceasefire in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week.

Benny Gantz, a centrist political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, travelled for talks with several senior US administration officials this week.

An official from Mr Netanyahu’s far-right Likud party said Mr Gantz did not have approval from the prime minister for his meetings in Washington and that Mr Netanyahu gave the Cabinet official a “tough talk” — underscoring the widening crack within Israel’s wartime leadership nearly six months into the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel did not send a delegation to ceasefire talks in Cairo because it is waiting for answers from Hamas on two questions, according to an Israeli official.

Israel Palestinians US Blinken
Benny Gantz is meeting US officials (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation. The number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip has soared above 30,000 since the war began nearly five months ago when Hamas-led militants stormed across southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 others hostage.

Meanwhile, Hamas is calling on Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank to rise up against Israel during Ramadan.

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan, speaking to reporters in Beirut on Monday, said Palestinians should “make every moment of Ramadan a confrontation”.

The US, Qatar and Egypt have been trying for weeks to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and to convince the militant group to release some of the scores of hostages it is still holding.

Benjamin Netanyahu visits the UK
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu (Aaron Chown/PA)

The month of dawn-to-dusk fasting is a time of heightened prayer, reflection and charity for Muslims around the world, but Israeli-Palestinian tensions often spike over access to a major holy site in Jerusalem.

Hamas has repeatedly called for a broader uprising in the occupied West Bank, where violence has surged since the start of the war, and among Israel’s own Palestinian minority.

Mr Hamdan did not provide any specifics about the ongoing ceasefire negotiations. Addressing his remarks to Israel and its top ally, the United States, he said: “What they have not gained in the battlefield, they will not gain through political machinations.”

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