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Israel insists: End to the war not part of hostage deal as Hamas is set to accept

Arabic reports: Hamas ready to agree at least to first phase of hostage deal

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, April 27, 2024. (Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel will not agree to end the war as part of a hostage deal, an Israeli official told Israeli media on Saturday, as multiple Arabic outlets reported that Hamas was set to accept the latest proposal.

Assurances from the United States that there would be a “sustainable cessation” of the war reportedly were an important factor for Hamas’ readiness to agree to a hostage deal.

However, an Israeli official attempted to dampen expectations on Saturday evening, telling Israeli media: “The publications as if Israel agreed to the end of the war as part of a hostage deal or that Israel would allow the mediators to provide guarantees for the end of the war are not true.”

“Up to this moment, Hamas has not given up its demand for an end to the war, thus thwarting the possibility of reaching an agreement,” he added.

Earlier on Saturday, an official stated: “The IDF will enter Rafah and destroy the remaining Hamas battalions there — whether there is a temporary pause to free our captives or not.”

As part of significant concessions, Israel reportedly agreed to release Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah official currently serving five life terms for planning terror attacks that killed five Israelis, according to Asharq al-Awsat.

Several Arabic reports had suggested that Hamas was ready to agree to at least the first phase of the latest hostage deal proposal that would free around 30 hostages without receiving guarantees of an end to the war, believing it continued to hold a strong negotiating position.

On Saturday evening in Cairo, a meeting began between a Hamas delegation and representatives of the Egyptian and Qatari mediators. Taher Nunu, a Hamas official seen as close to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, said the meeting had begun and Hamas was discussing the proposal “with full seriousness and responsibility.”

American CIA Director William Burns also traveled to the Egyptian capital on Saturday.

While an agreement seemed closer than ever before, Israeli and American sources told CNN that even if Hamas agreed to the deal on Saturday, discussions about its final details would take at least another few days, or even a week.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Israeli government gave Hamas one week to accept a truce agreement ahead of the Israeli military’s long-planned Rafah operation.

At the center of the emerging deal, Hamas would release 33 hostages in exchange for a 40-day-long truce in the first stage. The deal also offered the possibility for further negotiations concerning the remaining hostages and extending the truce.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain, a research fellow at the Foundation For Defense of Democracies (FDD), emphasized that Hamas is ultimately only interested in a deal that will secure the terror group’s long-term survival.

“Negotiations have focused on a short-term and transactional deal in which Israel allows Gaza relief in return for Hamas’s release of hostages. But Hamas is not interested in a band-aid solution,” Abdul-Hussain said.

“It wants to be back in power. Israel will never grant the terrorist group its wish, and therefore, the gap has always been unbridgeable and war inevitable.”

Israeli political and military leaders have underscored that continued military pressure on Hamas was essential to secure the release of the remaining hostages, and therefore, stressed the need to conduct a military incursion into Rafah, the only remaining part of Gaza that is still under full Hamas control.

FDD Senior Research Analyst David May believes the Biden administration’s opposition to a Rafah operation has encouraged Hamas to reject previous deals.

“U.S. pressure against an Israeli operation in Rafah has undermined the Jewish state’s leverage over the terrorist group. So long as Hamas feels safe in its final stronghold, it will not feel pressured to negotiate in good faith. Beyond negotiations, failing to eliminate Hamas in Rafah would leave Israelis at risk of suffering repeats of the October 7 attack,” May said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently urged Hamas to accept what he termed an “extraordinarily generous” Israeli offer.

“Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel,” Blinken stated. Hamas initially signaled it would reject the deal, likely because it did not believe that the Israeli military would launch its operation against Hamas’ last remaining stronghold in Rafah in southern Gaza close to the Egyptian border.

On Oct. 7, roughly 3,000 Hamas-affiliated terrorists invaded southern Israel and massacred at least 1,200 Israeli men, women and children. In addition, Hamas operatives also kidnapped over 250 Israelis and foreign nationals.

In late November, about 100 hostages were released during a truce between Hamas and Israel. There are still believed to be at least 130 hostages held by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. However, Israeli and U.S. officials fear that many, or even most, of them are no longer alive.

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

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