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The current cease-fire is the longest to be declared since the war broke out last month in the Gaza Strip. The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.
Early Thursday afternoon, Hamas negotiators flew from Cairo to Doha for consultations with Hamas leaders in Qatar.
It was the first time that Hamas figures were allowed to fly directly from the Cairo airport since a military-backed government took over in Egypt last year, replacing an Islamist president whose Muslim Brotherhood group was closely allied with Hamas. That appeared to reflect recognition on Egypt’s part of Qatar’s importance in the talks.
Egypt has positioned itself as the key mediator, but its tough anti-Hamas policies could limit its effectiveness. The tiny Gulf Arab nation of Qatar is seen as a conduit for Hamas demands. It hosts several senior Hamas leaders and has staunchly opposed the Egypt-Israel blockade of the Palestinian coastal strip.
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