update deskIsrael at War

Gallant: Hamas stalling hostage talks, Rafah battle ‘soon’

Israel is seeing "worrying signs" Hamas has no intention of agreeing to any hostage deal, the defense minister said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip, May 5, 2024. Photo by Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with IDF troops in the central Gaza Strip, May 5, 2024. Photo by Shachar Yurman/Defense Ministry.

Jerusalem is seeing “worrying signs” that Hamas has no intention of agreeing to any hostages-for-ceasefire-and-terrorists-release deal, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops in the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

Hamas’s refusal “means action in Rafah and the entire Strip in the near future,” Gallant said during a tour of the Israel Defense Forces’ Netzarim Corridor that splits the coastal enclave between north and south.

“We have clear goals for this war: We are committed to the elimination of Hamas and the release of the hostages,” stated the defense minister.

“We gave a period of time and wanted to reach a situation where we could realize the release of the hostages as quickly as possible, with a certain delay in the operational action. Because the hostages are in a difficult situation, we have to make every effort to free them,” he added.

Amid ongoing talks for the release of the 132 hostages still held by Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday decried the terrorist organization’s “extreme” positions on a deal at the Cairo talks.

“While Israel showed this willingness [to compromise], Hamas remained entrenched in its extreme positions, chief among them the demand to withdraw all our forces from the Strip, end the war, and leave Hamas intact,” Netanyahu said following a Cabinet meeting.

Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas’s “political” bureau, released a statement after Netanyahu’s, saying his terrorist group is willing to reach a deal while blaming the Israeli prime minister for “the continuation of the aggression and the expansion of the circle of conflict, and sabotaging the efforts made through the mediators and various parties.”

During Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Gallant said the IDF offensive in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, where the remaining four Hamas terrorist battalions are located, is expected to take place “very soon.”

At least seven people were wounded, one seriously, on Sunday afternoon when terrorists fired a 10-rocket-and-mortar-shell barrage from the Rafah area towards Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in southern Israel. Several rockets exploded near a military facility, causing the casualties.

The Air Force subsequently attacked terrorist targets in Rafah, in the areas from which the missiles were fired towards Kerem Shalom.

Jerusalem has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war.

Many of the 132 hostages still in the hands of Hamas more than 200 days after the Oct. 7 massacre are believed to be held in Rafah. IDF special forces rescued two captives from the city in February.

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