GAZA: Displaced Palestinians take the coastal Rashid road to return to Gaza City as they pass through Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 14, 2024. — AFP
GAZA: Displaced Palestinians take the coastal Rashid road to return to Gaza City as they pass through Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 14, 2024. — AFP

Hamas and Zionist entity exchange recriminations over stalled Gaza talks

Palestinian group reiterates demands for permanent ceasefire, full withdrawal of Zionist forces

JERUSALEM: The Zionist entity and Hamas have accused each other of undermining negotiations for a truce in Gaza and a hostage release deal, although the talks have not collapsed. On Saturday, while Hamas-backer Iran was preparing to launch hundreds of drones and missiles at the Zionist entity in retaliation for a deadly Damascus strike, the Palestinian group announced that it had delivered its response to the latest ceasefire proposal.

Without explicitly rejecting the draft deal, Hamas reiterated its long-standing demands for a permanent ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Zionist forces from the Gaza Strip, which Zionist officials have repeatedly opposed. Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instead reiterated his determination to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, the last city in Gaza yet to face such a fate and which the Zionist entity insists is Hamas’ last major holdout.

On Saturday, Netanyahu accused Hamas of being the “only obstacle” to a deal that would free the hostages still held by Gaza militants. “The cabinet and the security forces are united in their opposition to these unfounded demands,” he said, adding that Hamas “has refused any deal and any compromise proposal”.

On Sunday, the Zionist entity’s Mossad spy agency said in a statement released by Netanyahu’s office that Hamas had rejected the proposal, and said it “proves” that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar “does not want a humanitarian deal and the return of the hostages”. Sinwar was “continuing to exploit the tension with Iran”, Mossad said, and was aiming for “a general escalation in the region”. The comments came just hours before Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at the Zionist entity, the vast majority of which were intercepted, according to the Zionist entity.

Mossad said the Zionist entity would “continue to work to achieve the objectives of the war against Hamas with all its might, and will turn every stone to bring back the hostages from Gaza”. Despite the apparent gulf between the two sides, the talks, mediated by Egypt, the United States and Qatar, are ongoing in the Egyptian capital. “The negotiations are not at a standstill” but the mediators will have to go back to the drawing board, said Hasni Abidi of CERMAM, a Geneva-based think tank specializing in the Mediterranean and the Arab world.

A framework being circulated in Cairo would halt fighting for six weeks and see the exchange of about 40 captives for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, as well as more aid deliveries into the besieged Gaza Strip. A Hamas source told AFP that, ultimately, later stages of the ceasefire would see all hostages released, the Zionist entity withdrawing all its forces from Gaza, the lifting of the siege and the reconstruction of the territory.

However, so far every attempt to negotiate a durable ceasefire in the six-month-long war has failed. In November, a seven-day truce enabled the exchange of 80 captives for 240 Palestinian prisoners, as well as 25 captives freed outside of the truce mechanism. The Zionist entity has killed at least 33,729 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

The Zionist entity withdrew most of its troops from the Gaza Strip on the six-month anniversary of the war, leaving only a single brigade in central Gaza, while continuing to launch air strikes and bombardments. Netanyahu has repeated his determination to launch a ground invasion of Rafah, where around 1.5 million Gazans are sheltering from the war, despite opposition from the Zionist entity’s top ally the United States.—AFP

He also faces increasing pressure from the Zionist public and the families of the captives, with mass weekly demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem demanding an end to his government and the return of the captives. – AFP

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