newsIsrael at War

‘Khan Yunis exit, aid increase hurting hostage deal prospects’

“We gave up our strong cards for nothing," officials in Jerusalem say.

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, April 9, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, April 9, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Sources in Jerusalem believe that the IDF withdrawal from Khan Yunis and the flood of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip have hurt the chances that Hamas will agree to a hostage release deal, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

The Israeli officials say that the terrorist group won’t compromise in regards to the American temporary ceasefire proposal on the table at talks in Cairo after receiving so much for free.

“We gave up our strong cards for nothing,” Ynet quotes the Israeli sources as saying. “Hamas is digging in with its demands for an end to the war and a troop withdrawal, and is determined to play tricks with the mediators,” the sources continued.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday expressed frustration with Hamas for holding up an agreement, saying that Jerusalem was prepared to move forward.

Asked about President Joe Biden’s failure to secure a deal during the last week of Ramadan, Sullivan told reporters at the White House press briefing that “it says more about the fact that you have a party, Hamas, [that] is holding innocent people that it took hostage six months ago. It doesn’t get a lot of attention in the commentary.”

Sullivan continued, “There could be a ceasefire in place today that would extend for several weeks to be built upon longer if Hamas would be prepared to release some of those people, so let’s train the attention where it belongs, which is the world should say at this moment that ‘Hamas, it’s time. Let’s go. Let’s get that ceasefire.'”

He added, “I believe Israel is ready and Hamas should step up to the table and be prepared to do so as well.”

Indirect talks have been taking place in Cairo, Doha and Paris brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States for a temporary ceasefire that would see the release of the 133 captives still in the Strip more than six months after the Oct. 7 invasion.

The Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea departed the Egyptian capital on Monday amid conflicting reports of progress in negotiations to free the hostages.

Mossad director David Barnea speaks at the opening of the Eli Cohen National Museum in Herzliya, Dec. 12, 2022. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

The Hamas delegation also left the Egyptian capital, with a senior official from the terrorist group saying in an interview with the Qatari Al Jazeera network that no progress was made since Israel “did not respond to any of Hamas’s demands.”

Hamas will not budge on its demands for a “permanent ceasefire” and a full IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as part of any hostage agreement, according to the Palestinian terrorist group’s leader in exile.

Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Doha under the protection of the Qatari government, commented in a televised speech ahead of Quds Day on April 5 that Hamas would not change its conditions for a deal, which Jerusalem has described as “delusional” and a non-starter.

“We are committed to our demands: a permanent ceasefire, comprehensive and complete withdrawal of the enemy out of the Gaza Strip, the return of all displaced people to their homes, allowing all aid needed for our people in Gaza, rebuilding the Strip, lifting the blockade and achieving an honorable prisoner exchange deal,” said Haniyeh.

Jerusalem’s war goals are to free the hostages, defeat Hamas as a political and military entity in Gaza and ensure that the territory can never again threaten Israel. However, those goals have come into question after Israel withdrew all of its forces from southern Gaza, leaving just one brigade in all of the Strip.

Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip, April 9, 2024. Credit: IDF.

Biden dispatched CIA Director William Burns to Cairo for the talks and on April 5 urged the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to pressure Hamas to agree to a ceasefire and hostages-for-terrorists release deal.

A senior Biden administration official told Reuters the president wrote letters to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in which “he urged them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree and abide by a deal.”

Earlier in the week the IDF announced the withdrawal of ground forces from southern Gaza after four months of fighting in Khan Yunis.

There has also been a significant increase in humanitarian aid entering the Strip, with record amounts reported by Israeli authorities in recent days.

The Israeli Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit said on Tuesday that more than 1,200 aid trucks were inspected and transferred to the Strip over the past three days.

The rise in deliveries comes after Biden last week publicly pushed for more aid following the accidental killing by Israeli forces of seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen in Gaza, conditioning Israeli support on doing more to protect humanitarian aid workers and improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

In a recent interview with the American Spanish-language television network Univision that aired on Tuesday, Biden called for a temporary pause in fighting to allow for “total access to all food and medicine” in Gaza.

“I’ve spoken with everyone from the Saudis to the Jordanians to the Egyptians. They’re prepared to move in,” he said. “They’re prepared to move this food in. And I think there’s no excuse to not provide for the medical and the food needs of those people. It should be done now.”

According to Israel, Hamas has been stealing up to 60% of the aid entering the Gaza Strip. 

Masked Palestinian gunmen on trucks loaded with humanitarian aid entering Gaza from Israel through the Kerem Shalom Crossing, April 3, 2024. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that only a combination of military pressure and tough negotiations would bring about the release of the remaining hostages taken to Gaza by Palestinian terrorists on Oct. 7.

The Israeli military is planning a major offensive to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in the terrorist group’s last bastion of Rafah city in southernmost Gaza, raising tensions with Washington, which opposes a full-scale battle.

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