Hamas official: We will not accept truce that does not end Gaza war

Hamas official: We will not accept truce that does not end Gaza war

/ 06:31 AM May 05, 2024

Palestinians remove the body of a dead man after a military operation in the Palestinians town of Deir al-Ghusun

Palestinians remove the body of a dead man after a military operation in the Palestinians town of Deir al-Ghusun, near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, Saturday, May 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian Territories — A senior Hamas official on Saturday said the group would not accept a truce that did not completely end the Gaza war, accusing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu of “personally hindering” a deal.

Qatari, Egyptian and US mediators met a Hamas delegation in Cairo on Saturday in the latest bid to halt the devastating almost seven-month-old war that has triggered worldwide protests.


They were to hear the militant group’s response to a proposal that would halt fighting for 40 days and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners, according to details released by Britain.


READ: Hamas says no ‘major’ issues, as Gaza truce effort builds

But a senior Hamas official insisted late Saturday that the group would “not agree under any circumstances” to a truce that did not explicitly include a complete end to the war, including Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.

The official, who asked not to be named, condemned Israeli efforts to secure a hostage-release deal “without linking it to ending the aggression on Gaza”. He accused Netanyahu of “personally hindering” efforts to reach a truce due to “personal interests”.

A top Israeli official had earlier accused Hamas of “thwarting the possibility of reaching an agreement” by refusing to give up its demand for an end to the war.

Despite months of shuttle diplomacy, mediators have failed to broker a new truce like the week-long ceasefire that saw 105 hostages released last November, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinians held by Israel.

Previous negotiations stalled in part on Hamas’s demand for a lasting ceasefire and Netanyahu’s repeated vows to crush the group’s remaining fighters in the southern city of Rafah, which is flooded with displaced civilians.


READ: Hopes rise for possible Gaza truce deal

Israel has yet to send a delegation to Cairo. The Israeli official told AFP that it would do so only if there was “positive movement” on the proposed framework.

“Tough and long negotiations are expected for an actual deal,” the official added.

A senior Hamas source close to the negotiations told AFP they would resume on Sunday.

More deaths 

The war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 34,654 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Gaza’s civil defense agency and hospitals reported more deaths from Israeli strikes in Rafah as well as areas farther north.

The United Nations says more than 70 percent of Gaza’s residential buildings have been completely or partly destroyed, and rebuilding will require an effort unseen since the aftermath of World War II.

Accepting a ceasefire deal with Israel should be a “no-brainer” for Hamas, who are “the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said late Friday.

The prospect of an assault on Rafah has sparked deepening international concern.

The senior Hamas official on Saturday said Israel would bear “full responsibility for insisting on entering Rafah instead of ceasing the aggression”.

The World Health Organization says 1.2 million people, half of the Gaza Strip’s population, are sheltering in Rafah.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday warned that “a full-scale military operation in Rafah… could lead to a bloodbath”.

UN humanitarian office spokesman Jens Laerke said an assault on Rafah could “strike a disastrous blow” to agencies struggling to provide aid.

The war in Gaza has also triggered a surge in violence in the already restive occupied West Bank, where Israel said on Saturday its troops killed five Palestinian “terrorists” during a 12-hour siege near Tulkarem.

At least 496 Palestinians have been killed in the territory by Israeli troops or settlers since October 7, according to an AFP tally.

Palestinians prayer next to the bodies of their relatives who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza Strip

Palestinians prayer next to the bodies of their relatives who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza Stirp, at the Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza, Saturday, May 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

‘Open mind’ 

Egypt’s Al-Qahera News, which is linked to the intelligence services, had quoted an unidentified high-ranking source as saying “there is significant progress in the negotiations” and that the mediators had “reached an agreed-upon formula on most points of contention”.

But the senior Hamas official said late Saturday the talks had ended for the day after “no developments”.

The top Israeli official, who spoke anonymously, said a sign of progress would be if Israel sent a delegation to Cairo led by Mossad intelligence service chief David Barnea.

The continued captivity of Israeli hostages in Gaza has caused rising political tensions, with some protesters accusing Netanyahu of seeking to prolong the war.

Demonstrators have regularly taken to Israeli streets demanding the government reach a deal to bring the hostages home, with thousands again protesting in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

“War is not holy, life is,” the protesters chanted.

The Israeli government says 128 hostages remain in Gaza, including 35 the military says are presumed dead.

Wartime wedding 

US President Joe Biden has come under mounting domestic pressure to leverage more concessions from Netanyahu’s government over its conduct of the war.

A letter signed by 88 congressmen from Biden’s Democratic Party expressed serious concern over Israel’s “deliberate withholding” of aid for Palestinian civilians and urged Biden to consider halting arms sales unless Israel’s conduct changes.

At US urging, Israel has facilitated more aid deliveries into Gaza in recent days but UN agencies say that has not averted advancing famine.

World Food Programme chief Cindy McCain said in an interview published Friday that there was already “full-blown famine in the north (of Gaza) and it’s moving its way south”.

In a rare break from the daily struggle to survive, dozens of Palestinians gathered under decorative lights in Khan Yunis for a mass wedding on Friday. The grooms, one of them on crutches, wore matching dark suits over white shirts.

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The war remained close, though. The Israeli military said it struck a munitions site in the Khan Yunis area on Friday after a projectile was fired towards Israel.

TAGS: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel-Hamas war

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