Home Asean News Israel Awaits Hamas Response On Ceasefire, Return Of Hostages

Israel Awaits Hamas Response On Ceasefire, Return Of Hostages

Smoke rises over Gaza following an explosion, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Israel, April 30, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel is waiting for Hamas to reply to proposals that would stop the fighting in Gaza and secure the return of Israeli hostages before dispatching a delegation to Cairo for further discussions, according to a source close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This development comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to arrive in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening from Riyadh, where he was involved in discussions aimed at normalising relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. As the conflict approaches its seventh month, there is increasing pressure to reach a ceasefire agreement.

Expectations that an agreement could be in sight have grown in recent days following a renewed push led by Egypt to revive stalled negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

But so far, there has been little sign of agreement on the most fundamental difference between the two sides, the Hamas demand that any deal must ensure a withdrawal of troops and a permanent end to the Israeli operation in Gaza.

“We can’t tell our people the occupation will stay or the fight will resume after Israel regains its prisoners,” said a Palestinian official from a group allied with Hamas. “Our people want this aggression to end.”

For Netanyahu, any move is likely to be affected by divisions in his own cabinet between ministers pressing to bring home at least some of the 133 Israeli hostages left in Gaza, and hardliners insisting on the long-promised assault on remaining Hamas formations in the southern city of Rafah.

An incursion into Rafah will happen “with a deal or without a deal”, Netanyahu said on Tuesday, adding that ending the war before reaching its objectives was “out of the question.”


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But Israeli officials have said the operation could be deferred if Hamas accepts the deal on offer – which includes no definitive ceasefire but the return of 33 vulnerable hostages in exchange for a much larger number of Palestinian prisoners and a limited pause in the fighting.

“As far as Israel is concerned, this is the last chance to hold off a Rafah sweep. The IDF has already started mobilizing troops for that operation,” said a second Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Netanyahu’s position has also been complicated by talk that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may be preparing arrest warrants for himself and other senior Israeli leaders on charges related to the conduct of the war.

The ICC has so far said nothing to confirm the speculation, which prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to warn Israeli embassies abroad to bolster their security.

But it underlined fears in Israel of growing isolation over the fighting in Gaza, which has caused mounting international alarm at the scale of destruction and the prospect of a slide into a wider regional conflict.

The military operation by Israel was initiated in response to an attack by Hamas-led gunmen, who killed approximately 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and took 253 hostages around Gaza. This has resulted in over 34,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza, as reported by local health authorities, and significant destruction across the enclave.

With Inputs From Reuters