Middle east

Israeli-Hamas Tensions Over U.S. Proposal for Hostage Deal

Positions are highly divergent in the ongoing ceasefire negotiations through intermediaries, as the U.S. proposal does not include an end to the war

The Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” cited an unnamed senior Israeli official as saying that the Israeli negotiating delegation in Qatar “has accepted an American proposal” regarding the release of hostages, but Hamas will not give its consent for the time being, while sources in the Hamas leadership said that the statements of the Israeli officials are “manipulation to justify the continuation of the war.”

The American proposal involves the release of 40 hostages who were abducted during the October 7 attacks on Israel and held in Gaza as part of the deal, the Israeli official added. “We are still far from reaching an agreement… but the negotiations continue.”

The Israeli broadcasting authority “Makan” confirmed in a report that “the United States has put an offer on the table, accepted by Israel, while Hamas has not yet announced its position on it.” “There is a belief in Israel that Hamas‘s response to the proposals put forward will be made within 48 hours.”

On Friday, the head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, arrived in the Qatari capital Doha leading an Israeli delegation, in his second visit within a week, to hold new meetings with mediators regarding reaching a ceasefire agreement with the Hamas movement.

However, according to the Israeli broadcasting authority “Makan,” “after consultation” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was decided to recall Barnea, the head of the Israeli internal security agency Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, and the official in charge of the prisoners’ file in the Israeli army, Major General Reserves Nitzan Alon, from Doha, while keeping the professional team to continue the negotiations.

A report by Hebrew Channel 12 revealed that Netanyahu was under “strong pressure” from members of the security cabinet to expand the powers of the negotiation delegation. The report, published by the “Times of Israel” newspaper, indicated that the meeting before the departure of the negotiation delegation was “dramatic,” where the head of Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, threatened not to travel to Doha “before obtaining more powers” during the negotiations.

He pointed out that the Israeli negotiators “were not ready to travel to Qatar without more room for maneuver in the Doha discussions.”

According to the Israeli channel, the instructions given by Netanyahu to the delegation “would not have provided a real opportunity to reach an agreement” to release the hostages held by Hamas.

Meanwhile, Hamas considered the statements of the Israeli officials as “Israeli manipulation to justify the continuation of the war,” stating that the American proposal “does not include an agreement to end the war,” according to “Haaretz” citing sources in the Palestinian movement’s leadership.

On Saturday, a Hamas official said that the positions were “very divergent” in the ongoing ceasefire negotiations through intermediaries, accusing Israel of “deliberately sabotaging and undermining” them. The official, who preferred not to disclose his name, said that Israel “refused to cease fire, allow the return of displaced persons, and allow aid to enter unconditionally.”

Among the main points of contention in the ongoing negotiations is the humanitarian aid distribution system, and Hamas‘s demand to allow the return of displaced people to the northern Gaza Strip, where Israel opposes the return of displaced persons to northern Gaza, including women and children.

Sources also indicated that Hamas was demanding that UNRWA be responsible for the distribution of humanitarian aid, considering it “the only one capable of ensuring its immediate receipt and distribution,” but Israel opposes any organization “linked to Hamas,” including UNRWA, being responsible for the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Israel continues to face ongoing protests to push the government to conclude a deal to release the hostages.

The United States, Qatar, and Egypt are mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a ceasefire, the release of hostages held in Gaza, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

The war has pushed 2.2 million people to the brink of famine, and three-quarters of the population in the devastated sector have been displaced, according to United Nations estimates.

The Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza reported Sunday that Israeli army vehicles are currently surrounding Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals in Khan Younis city, amid extremely intense shelling and heavy gunfire.

The organization said in a post on its “X” platform today that occupation vehicles are currently besieging Al-Amal hospital and carrying out extensive excavation work in its surroundings, adding that all its teams are currently in grave danger and cannot move at all.

Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted eyewitnesses as saying, “Aerial bombardment is concentrated south and east of the Nasser compound, and in the Beit Lahiya area, in addition to continuous artillery shelling targeting the same areas, and gunfire from helicopters and drones, leading to the killing and injuring of a number of citizens.”

According to the agency, “Thousands of displaced persons have sought refuge in Nasser Hospital, fleeing from Israeli shelling, and on February 15th, Israeli forces stormed the hospital in an operation that lasted for 10 days, during which they killed dozens of displaced persons, medical staff, and patients inside the hospital and arrested hundreds of displaced persons in addition to carrying out operations to destroy and shell various buildings and sections of the hospital.”

This comes as Israeli forces continue to besiege and raid the Shifa Medical Complex in the Al-Remal neighborhood west of Gaza City, for the seventh consecutive day.

The Israeli army announced Sunday that the forces “arrested 480 individuals affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, as well as identified weapons and infrastructure sites ‘belonging to terrorists’ in the hospital.” It also announced the killing of one of its soldiers in a battle in northern Gaza.

Israeli leaders said that dozens of Palestinian militants have been killed in the hospital area since the operation began a week ago.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza announced Sunday that at least 32,226 Palestinians have been killed and 74,518 others injured in the Israeli military campaign on the sector since October 7th.

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