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Hostage deal negotiations appear stuck with Ramadan deadline fast approaching

Israel: Sinwar wants to sabotage deal, inflame region over Muslim holidays

Yahya Sinwar, speaks during a conference in Gaza city, on Nov.4, 2019 (Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90).

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan only one week away, the negotiations for a ceasefire and a hostage release deal between the State of Israel and the Hamas terror organization appear to be stuck.

War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz has repeatedly stated that if there is no deal, the IDF will enter Rafah, even during Ramadan.

Israel chose not to send a delegation to the latest round of talks in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday after it did not receive any indication that Hamas would respond to Israel’s remaining demands, and amid reports that the terror group insisted on an immediate end to the war.

Hamas has not yet responded to Israel’s demands for a list with the names of the living Israeli hostages Hamas intends to release in the deal, as well as the number ("the key") of Palestinian prisoners to be released per Israeli hostage.

“Without these two parameters (the list of living hostages and the "key" to the deal) other things have no meaning. It is impossible to negotiate,” a senior Israeli official told Israel's Channel 12 news.

“There is a clear picture here: Sinwar made a decision that, in Ramadan, he wants chaos and bloodshed instead of humanitarian aid, peace and a ceasefire for his population,” the official added.

Even if the outstanding issues were to be resolved in the talks between Israel, Hamas representatives and the Egyptian and Qatari mediators, Sinwar could still decide not to take the deal.

The head of the terror group's Gaza division has been out of contact with the outside world for more than a week, prompting concerns that he may not be accessible to finalize any potential agreement, as reported by Egyptian and Qatari officials to the Wall Street Journal, Egyptian and Qatari officials told the Wall Street Journal.

According to the last message Sinwar sent to Hamas’ political leadership in Qatar, he is holding out for an Israeli ground offensive into the southern Gaza town of Rafah, hoping that the resulting civilian deaths would incite Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank to violently rise up against Israel.

Meanwhile, the United States is upping the pressure on all sides to reach a deal before Ramadan.

U.S. President Joe Biden called Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Thursday, telling them to get him a deal, according to the Axios news outlet.

“All three leaders agreed the onus is currently on Hamas to close the remaining gaps in the package, an informed U.S. source told the news site. “The Egyptian and Qatari leaders described their efforts with Hamas and shared the sense of urgency to get this done.”

With Israel accepting the outlines of the deal, all that is needed is for Hamas to agree, a U.S. official said. “We still hope we can get a deal by Ramadan. The ball is in Hamas’ court.”

A senior Israeli official described the chances of reaching the deal as 50-50.

“Biden’s personal involvement and his calls with the leaders of Qatar and Egypt are very important,” the official said.

On Sunday, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris underscored the administration’s urgency to reach a deal, saying, “Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next 6 weeks.”

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

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