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Destruction, fighting conditions in Gaza may have led Hamas to change stance on hostage deal, AP report claims

Messages seen by AP appear to show divisions within Hamas leadership

Palestinians returning to their homes a few days after the Israeli army withdrew from the area, in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza Strip, April 13, 2024. (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

According to a report from the Associated Press, the Hamas terrorist organization may have softened its demands in the negotiations for a hostage deal as a result of heavy losses and significant destruction in the Gaza Strip. 

The AP report, released on Monday morning, claims the United States and Middle Eastern officials believe the level of devastation in Gaza likely caused Hamas leadership to reduce its demand for a permanent ceasefire in the first stage of the deal. 

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office claimed that his “firm stance” led to the change in negotiations. 

“The Prime Minister's firm stand against the attempt to stop the IDF operation in Rafah is what made Hamas enter into negotiations,” read the statement, which came just before Netanyahu was due to meet with advisors about the hostage deal. 

According to the report, senior figures in Hamas' military-terror wing called on the organization's political leadership living abroad to agree to the latest version of the plan put forward by U.S. President Joe Biden.

The AP reported that it saw messages signed by senior Hamas members in Gaza urging the political leadership to accept the deal. The messages reportedly referenced the heavy losses incurred by Hamas in fighting against the IDF and the significant destruction in the Gaza Strip. 

The messages appeared to indicate a division between Hamas leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, the main leader of Hamas' military arm who is believed to be hiding in Khan Younis. 

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is aware of divisions within the organization. 

A Middle East official anonymously provided the AP with details from some of the communications between the exiled Hamas leaders and those still in Gaza. The communications acknowledged the high number of Hamas members who have been killed and the level of devastation in the Gaza Strip from the IDF's ground campaign. 

However, Hamas spokesperson Jihad Taha rebuffed claims of divisions within the group.

“The movement’s position is unified and is crystallized through the organizational framework of the leadership,” he stated. 

On Sunday, Netanyahu put forward a series of “red lines” that Israel will not accept as part of a deal, including the return of thousands of armed terrorists to northern Gaza and the ongoing smuggling of weapons to Hamas from Egypt. 

On Monday, Israeli media reported that the head of Israel's security agency had departed for Cairo to resume negotiations for a hostage release agreement

“The head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Ronen Bar, has traveled to Egypt to continue talks on a potential cease-fire and hostage deal with Hamas,” Haaretz reported. “Bar will also discuss the prevention of arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian border.” 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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