TV report says Hamas answer on Israel’s latest hostage deal terms expected in 48 hours

TV report says Hamas answer on Israel’s latest hostage deal terms expected in 48 hours

Israel anticipates an answer from Hamas in the next 48 hours to its latest proposals for a hostage-truce deal, Channel 12 news reports.

It says the terms are being conveyed to Hamas in Gaza today via the Egyptian delegation, led by intel chief Abbas Kamel, that held five hours of talks with Israeli negotiators on Friday.

It restates reports from Friday that Israel expects Hamas to release 33 living hostages who meet the so-called humanitarian designation — that is, women, children, men aged over 50 and the sick — while Hamas claims to hold only 20 hostages who meet this designation.

It adds, without citing a source and without elaborating, that an accompanying truce in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza would last one more day for each extra hostage released. It is not clear how this would relate to reports in recent weeks that the first phase of a deal would provide for a 42-day truce.

The TV report also says the terms being conveyed would provide for a subsequent phase of negotiations, in which an end to the war and the release of all further hostages would be discussed. It stresses that Israel would not have to commit to ending the war as a condition for the initial release of the 33 “humanitarian” hostages.

Hamas has since the November deal conditioned the release of any further hostages on Israel ending the war — a demand Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected as delusional.

The report also claims, without citing a source, that Israel has received a green light from the United States regarding its plan for evacuating civilians from Rafah. It stresses that Israel has not received American approval for a ground operation in the city. And it says the Israeli political echelon has not told the IDF to begin any evacuation effort.

It says the issue of Rafah, where the Hamas leadership is believed to be hiding underground, along with many hostages, was also discussed in yesterday’s talks with the Egyptians.

Citing people familiar with Netanyahu’s thinking, the TV report says the prime minister does not want to agree to end the war. It says he opposes Hamas and other gunmen being allowed to return to northern Gaza in a deal. It says he feels Israel has been showing increasing flexibility on the terms of a deal, while Hamas has not shifted from its core demand to end the war as a condition for any hostage releases.

Netanyahu, it says, is also deeply concerned by the prospect of the International Criminal Court in The Hague issuing arrest warrants against Israel’s political and military leaders for alleged war crimes in Gaza. The prime minister, the report says, has asked US President Joe Biden to intervene to try to prevent this. Otherwise, he is said to warn, such a move “could bring everything down.”

Netanyahu further believes that Hamas’s release tonight and earlier in the week of propaganda videos showing three hostages underlines that Hamas is extremely anxious to prevent the IDF entering Rafah, since that would likely mean the end of its rule in Gaza.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for his part, is said to believe that “Rafah can wait” and that the priority must be the release of the hostages.

As it did on Friday, Channel 12 quotes unnamed defense sources saying Netanyahu must be “pushed” into a deal now, and that the “problem” preventing this is his fear of the far-right parties bringing down his coalition. These unnamed defense sources, it says, note the possible existence of a path to an end to the war and achieve normalization for Israel with Saudi Arabia.

A second report, by the TV station’s political analyst Amit Segal, says that Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich has “more than hinted” that a deal on the terms currently offered by Israel would mean an end to the coalition. Smotrich, the finance minister, is said to consider the terms to constitute “capitulation to the Nazi enemy.”

Fellow far-right party leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who has been in hospital since he was injured in a car crash yesterday, also opposes the terms, Segal notes.

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