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GAZA CRISIS: Riyadh to Host Top Diplomats From Arab, Western Countries

Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the UAE and Jordan will meet Monday in Riyadh with their US, German, British, French and Italian counterparts

Senior Western and Arab officials are expected to meet next week in Riyadh to discuss the months-long war in the Gaza Strip on the sidelines of an economic forum in Saudi Arabia, according to diplomatic sources.

Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the UAE and Jordan will meet Monday in Riyadh with their US, German, British, French and Italian counterparts, the sources said.

The Arab officials, joined by a Palestinian Authority representative, will meet on Saturday to formulate a “unified Arab stance” ahead of the Monday meeting, the sources told dpa on condition of anonymity.

The Palestinian official will not attend the talks with the top Western diplomats, the sources added.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry travelled on Saturday to Riyadh, sources at Cairo airport said.

Saudi Arabia is hosting an international economic forum in Riyadh on Sunday and Monday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud

The international talks come amid fears of a planned Israeli offensive in Gaza’s Rafah city and renewed efforts to broker a hostage and ceasefire deal.

A top Hamas official said on Saturday that the Islamist militant group is studying an Israeli counterproposal regarding such a deal.

“Hamas will examine this proposal and submit a response,” Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy head of the group’s political arm in Gaza, said in a statement posted on Telegram.

He said the Israeli side was responding to a proposal Hamas had presented to Egyptian and Qatari mediators on April 13.

Negotiations aimed at releasing hostages held by militants in the Gaza Strip and securing a ceasefire in the devastated Palestinian territory have been deadlocked for months.

But Israel’s preparations for a large-scale ground offensive on Rafah – the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip and the territory’s last Hamas stronghold – is reportedly putting pressure on the group.

US media outlet Axios reported, citing two senior Israeli officials, that Israel had warned Egypt that this would be the “last chance” to strike a deal before its Rafah operations begin.

Axios and Israeli media reported that Hamas and Israel are at loggerheads over the scope of the deal, including how many hostages could be released and how long the ceasefire would last. Hamas is demanding a permanent ceasefire, which Israel rejects.

Israel’s allies and critics have for months implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off the invasion of Rafah, fearing mass civilian casualties. More than a million displaced Palestinians from other parts of the Gaza Strip have taken shelter there.

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