No Gaza cease-fire agreement likely before Ramadan as latest negotiations end

The Hamas delegation has left Cairo.

The Hamas delegation has left Cairo, ending ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel and making it unlikely that there will be a break in the violence before the religious month of Ramadan begins on March 10, a senior official said. Egyptian official told ABC News.

While Israel signed some of Hamas’s terms, Hamas then stepped up its demands and pushed for a permanent ceasefire that maintained control of Gaza, two U.S. officials familiar with the talks said Wednesday.

US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew said at an event in Israel on Thursday that it is a “mistake” to think the hostage negotiations and ceasefire are over.

“There are still discussions going on. There’s still some back and forth going on. The differences are narrowing. It’s still not an agreement,” Lew said. “And everyone is looking forward to Ramadan, which is approaching.”

“I can’t tell you it will be successful, but it isn’t yet [the talks have] broken down,” said Lew.

The US has urged all sides in the negotiations to reach an agreement before Ramadan begins, but as the start of Ramadan approaches, the possibility of striking a deal by then appears less likely.

Officials said the US and Israel have limited their focus to what was previously described as phase one of a three-step pact: the exchange of several dozen hostages for a ceasefire of at least six weeks. The officials said the “phase one” deal would bring home some of the most vulnerable hostages, allow for a dramatic increase in aid to Gaza and potentially defuse tensions.

The ongoing war began after Hamas-led terrorists launched an unprecedented incursion into southern Israel from neighboring Gaza on October 7. According to Israeli authorities, approximately 1,200 Israelis were killed while more than 200 others were taken hostage.

The Israeli army then launched retaliatory airstrikes, followed by a ground invasion of Gaza, killing more than 30,000 Palestinians, the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza said.

More than a hundred hostages were released in late November during a brief ceasefire in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, but dozens of other hostages have remained in captivity in the months since the ceasefire ended.

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford contributed to this report.

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