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Egypt Hamas Hamas Hostages Israel

Senior Hamas leader rejects Egypt ceasefire proposal saying it does not include anything new

A senior official from the Hamas terror group stated on Thursday that Egypt had presented a new ceasefire proposal to end the war in Gaza but did not bring any new elements to the table.

He added US and Egyptian mediators wanted to keep the ceasefire talks open despite their conviction that there was a wide gap between Israel and Hamas. The Hamas leader said there is a possibility of another round of discussions in Cairo next week, coinciding with Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.

Posters of Israeli hostages are seen on the wall of the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, 03 April , 2024. (Source – Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“The Hamas leadership informed the Egyptian and Qatari mediators that what is being offered cannot be accepted, as it is a continuation of the stubborn Israeli position,” the official said. 

In a press briefing, Hamas politburo member Osama Hamdan blamed Prime Minister Netanyahu for the deadlock, accusing him of obstructing both parties from reaching an agreement and displaying disinterest in releasing Israeli hostages. 

Hamas reiterated its demands, which include the full withdrawal of Israeli forces, a permanent ceasefire, the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza, and increased humanitarian aid to the Strip. Critically, Hamas insisted on the release of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners responsible for committing mass atrocities in exchange for the 130 hostages held since 07 October. Despite presenting the same demands as before, Hamdan tried to claim flexibility from Hamas’s side and continued to shift the blame of any lack of progress onto Israel.

An Israeli source, commenting on Hamdan’s remarks, said that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is purposefully stalling negotiations to avoid a hostage deal. The source suggested that Sinwar’s insistence on a full withdrawal, return of all residents to the north, and complete ceasefire indicated a clear lack of willingness to compromise. Sticking points in the negotiations included the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners with life sentences, a concern contested by Israel for fear it could reassert Hamas’ influence in the region. 

Hamas Political Bureau Member Osama Hamdan, attends a conference of the International Union of Resistance Clerics, in Beirut, Monday 04 March, 2024. (Source – AP Photo)

On Wednesday, Doha-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh reaffirmed the group’s commitment to its demands, rejecting Israel’s proposal for a temporary pause in fighting. Efforts to achieve a temporary cessation of hostilities and release hostages have so far failed since a weeklong truce in late November, which saw the release of 105 hostages. Of the remaining 130 hostages from 07 October, the IDF reported 34 dead.

Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, along with two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to still be alive.

Protestors outside Tel Aviv Hashalom train station demand the return of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, July 8, 2021. (Source –  Avshalom Sassoni/ Maariv)

At the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Oron Shaul’s brother said in an interview that Israel “should not miss another opportunity to bring my brother back. My family has been abandoned”.

About one month ago, classified documents belonging to the Hamas terrorist group were found in Gaza. These documents revealed Hamas’ strategic approach to exerting pressure on Israel by means of those held hostage and missing.

Included in the files were comprehensive strategies and tactics on applying psychological and diplomatic pressure on Israel to negotiate a hostage exchange that would be deemed a victory, which would see the release of captives taken prior to 07 October, including Goldin and Shaul.

Israel pledged to eradicate Hamas and end its 17-year rule following the deadly 07 October attack, which resulted in 1,200 Israeli casualties and 253 hostages seized and abducted by Hamas.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has to date reported around 33,000 deaths in the enclave since the war began, without distinguishing between combatants and civilians. Israel claims to have so far killed around 13,000 Hamas members in Gaza, along with approximately 1,000 killed in Israel following the 07 October massacre.

Isabella Egerton is a leading intelligence specialist and investigator focused on state led level security investigations. She has a proven track record in running complex multi-jurisdictional intelligence projects around the globe.