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Washington reportedly puts hostage deal on hold until Israeli completion of Rafah operation

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, June 8, 2024. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Biden administration has reportedly put potential hostage deal negotiations on hold until Israel completes its ongoing military operation in the southern city of Rafah, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Akhbar news outlet claimed on Saturday.

"The Americans are waiting for Israel to announce the end of its military operation in Rafah to resume the currently halted communications regarding the negotiations," Qatari and Egyptian sources reportedly told the news outlet.

Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza are still holding 120 Israeli hostages after eight months of war. Hamas has so far rejected all Israeli and international efforts to secure the release of the hostages in return for a truce and more humanitarian aid.

Hamas is reportedly eager to survive and unrealistically demands a permanent ceasefire, while Israel will only commit to a limited truce to facilitate the rescue of the hostages.

Israel's top leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have vowed to dismantle Hamas as a military and political power in the Gaza Strip. U.S. President Joe Biden has increasingly blamed Hamas for undermining the implementation of the hostage ceasefire deal.

“The biggest hang-up so far is Hamas refusing to sign on even though they have submitted something similar,” Biden stated.

Israeli officials recently argued that Hamas has effectively rejected the latest proposal, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stating that some of Hamas’ latest demands “are workable and some are not.”

Hamas reportedly demands an Israeli military withdrawal from the Philadelphi Corridor, a strategically important strip of land on the border between Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. The corridor and the nearby city of Rafah, in southern Gaza, are of critical importance as they constitute Hamas’ main gateway to the outside world.

Hamas reportedly insists on protecting this important border area with Egypt in order to continue smuggling weapons and other goods into the Gaza Strip. Israel, for its part, is equally adamant about ending Hamas’ ability to replenish its military resources via the border.

Israel maintains that gaining military control of Rafah is an important war goal as many of Hamas’ remaining forces are believed to be hiding in the tunnels below. Israeli military sources reportedly informed the Israeli state broadcaster KAN News on Friday that the IDF would likely need an additional two weeks to complete its ongoing operation against Hamas forces in Rafah.

The Biden administration initially opposed an Israeli military operation in Rafah due to the large number of Gazan civilians in the area. However, the IDF succeeded in evacuating nearly one million civilians ahead of the incursion.

Following repeated concerns from the Biden administration, Israel decided to switch from a large-scale to smaller more pinpointed military operations in the Rafah area.

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

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