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Divisions within Hamas leadership delay ceasefire hostage deal

Divisions within Hamas leadership delay ceasefire hostage deal

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held captive by Hamas terrorists in Gaza at “Hostage Square” in Tel Aviv, FEb. 3, 2024. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, differences of opinion between top Hamas leaders is delaying the acceptance and implementation of the most recent hostage release proposal. 

The WSJ reported that Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, is reportedly willing to accept a six-week ceasefire agreement in return for releasing all civilian hostages. If true, it could indicate that the IDF’s relentless efforts to locate and destroy Hamas infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip, particularly in the area of Khan Younis, has put significant pressure on the terror group. 

Officials familiar with the negotiations, which took place in Paris recently, said that Hamas leaders living in exile, such as Ismail Haniyeh in Qatar, are pushing for more Israeli concessions and have refused to drop the demand for a permanent ceasefire.  

On Friday, Haniyeh, who has participated in the negotiations in Cairo, reportedly said that any deal would have to “completely end” the IDF’s current operations in Gaza, including a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip. 

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official in Lebanon, said the group’s leadership is reviewing the proposal but gave no timeline for a decision. Hamdan said the group demands the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held on terror charges, specifically mentioning Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah official currently serving five life terms for planning terror attacks that killed five Israelis. 

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not agree to a proposal that demands the withdrawal of the IDF or the release of thousands of prisoners. 

Haniyeh reportedly is demanding the release of 3,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 36 Israeli hostages, who are considered to be civilians, by the terror group. 

Officials who spoke to the WSJ indicated that differing opinions within Hamas leadership exist between those living in Gaza, such as Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, as opposed to the exiled leadership, which sides with Haniyeh. 

Israel has not officially given its response to the proposal either. There is increasing pressure from many of the hostage’s families to approve a deal quickly before their loved ones die.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army is not slowing down operations in southern Gaza. The IDF has already announced its intention to extend operations to the Rafah area, near the Egyptian border, and has been briefing Egypt on its movements in the area. 

Reports in Arab media said that Hamas could provide an answer as early as 7 p.m. on Sunday.

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