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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Hamas Rejects Israeli Offer for Ceasefire in Exchange for Captives

Hamas rejects Israeli ceasefire offer, demanding an end to Gaza assault before hostage talks, as mediation efforts in Cairo involve potential release of captives and include Palestinian Islamic Jihad's conditions for negotiations.

Hamas has rejected an Israeli offer to cease fighting in exchange for the release of around 40 captives, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing sources. The Palestinian militant group has insisted that hostage talks can only begin if Israel ends its assault on Gaza first, the newspaper added.

The report comes as Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, arrived in Cairo to meet with Egypt’s intelligence chief and other local officials who have been trying to mediate in the conflict.

According to unnamed Egyptian officials interviewed by the WSJ, Israel insisted that Hamas release several dozen hostages, including all remaining women and children. In return, Israel was reportedly willing to halt its offensive on Gaza for a week and allow more humanitarian aid into the enclave.

For the first time, the talks were also due to include representatives of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), another powerful Gaza-based Islamist paramilitary organization, according to the article.

However, both PIJ and Hamas are said to have demanded that Israel implement a ceasefire before negotiations on any potential deal can begin. They further insisted on the release of all Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the freeing of over 100 hostages held in Gaza. Israel is estimated to currently be holding thousands of Palestinians.

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More than 120 hostages are believed to remain in Gaza after Israel and Hamas negotiated a week-long truce last month, which resulted in the release of more than 105 captives in exchange for West Jerusalem freeing 240 Palestinians. However, the ceasefire collapsed as the two sides accused one another of violating the agreement.

The WSJ report comes as Israeli President Isaac Herzog claimed his country is “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages.”

Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. According to the latest figures, the ensuing fighting has resulted in some 20,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis being killed, as well as unprecedented destruction in Gaza.

On Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Daniel Hagari said the military was nearing the end of its ground offensive in northern Gaza, and had expanded action in Khan Younis in the southern part of the enclave. According to the UN, Israel issued evacuation orders for the area, which serves as a shelter for an estimated 140,000 displaced Palestinians.