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IDF to delay Rafah incursion if hostage deal reached, says Israeli FM Katz

Israel waiting for Hamas response to latest deal proposal

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz addresses the UN Security Council (Photo: MFA/Shlomi Amsalem)

If the ongoing negotiations with Hamas lead to a hostage deal, Israel will postpone the planned ground incursion into the city of Rafah, according to Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

“The release of the hostages is the top priority for us,” Katz told Israel's Channel 12 in an interview on Saturday. He confirmed that this would include suspending the long-anticipated operation in Rafah to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions.

“If there will be a deal, we will suspend the operation,” the foreign minister added.

An Egyptian delegation arrived in Israel on Friday and continued its “intense talks” over the weekend, according to the KAN news outlet, after the latest round of negotiations ended weeks ago without a solution.

On Saturday, an unnamed Israeli official told local media outlets that negotiations are “very good, focused, held in good spirits and progressed in all parameters,” but emphasized: “This is the last chance before we go into Rafah.”

Following the publication of a video showing two male Israeli hostages, a security source told Army Radio: “Hamas is pushing for one comprehensive hostage deal to bring about the end of the war. If there will be a deal, the Rafah operation will be put off.”

However, The Times of Israel reported that Israel continues to reject an end of the war as a condition of a hostage deal.

“Israel did not agree to an end of the war, to a withdrawal from the Strip, or other demands that Hamas presented.”

“Israel did not accept the Egyptian demands, and presented its own conditions for a deal,” he added.

Hamas had announced on Saturday that it had received the outlines for a new deal from Egyptian mediators and was studying them to prepare a response.

According to several Israeli media reports, the Israeli Cabinet authorized the negotiation team to drop Israel’s original demand that Hamas free 40 Israeli hostages in the first phase of a deal.

An unnamed senior Israeli official later claimed the exact number was 33, which is based on Israel's estimated number of female, elderly and sick hostages who are still alive in Gaza.

Channel 12 later reported that the outlines sent to Hamas included a second stage, during which an end to the war would be on the table in exchange for the release of more hostages.

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

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