Kirby: ‘Deeply regrettable’ no Gaza cease-fire deal after meetings end

White House national security communications adviser John Kirby on Friday called it “deeply regrettable” in-person negotiations over a cease-fire in Gaza ended without a deal, but said the U.S. would work to keep all parties engaged moving forward.

“Obviously we don’t have a deal. And that’s deeply regrettable given the amount of energy that was applied trying to get us there,” Kirby told reporters in a virtual briefing.

“While the physical meetings have concluded, in other words, nobody’s sitting across from tables any more today … we are working hard to try and keep both sides engaged in continuing the discussion, if only virtually, and to continue to work on the actual text itself,” Kirby continued.

“We still believe a deal is possible. We still believe … the gaps remaining can be surmounted,” he added. “But it’s going to require leadership, it’s going to require some moral courage, and it’s going to require some continue ability to compromise in good faith.”

The U.S., along with Egypt and Qatar, has worked for weeks on a truce proposal between Israel and Hamas that would secure the release of Israeli hostages and pause fighting in Gaza, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed since the war started seven months ago.

Hamas on Monday said it had accepted an offer for a temporary cease-fire, but Israel said the group’s terms fell short of its core demands. Talks stalled Thursday, a setback after U.S. officials earlier in the week had expressed cautious optimism that negotiators meeting in Cairo would be able to resolve any remaining differences.

The break in negotiations comes as Israel carries out an operation at the Rafah crossing along the Gaza-Egypt border, an area where about a million refugees have settled after fleeing fighting in northern Gaza.

The White House has urged Israel against sending forces into Rafah without a clear plan to evacuate civilians safely, and President Biden this week warned he would halt shipments of artillery and offensive weapons to Israel if it carried out a full-scale invasion of Rafah.

But Kirby on Friday said the Israeli operation in Rafah did not appear to be at the level that would warrant the U.S. to shift its policy.

“We’re watching this, and we’re obviously watching it with concern,” Kirby told reporters. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say what we’ve seen here in the last 24 hours connotes or indicates a broad large scale invasion or major ground operation. It appears to be localized near the crossing and largely with the forces that they had put in there at the beginning.”

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