Hostage talks severed as Hamas sticks to maximalist demands

Hostage talks severed as Hamas sticks to maximalist demands

The terrorist group insists on “permanent ceasefire.”

The Hamas terrorist group told mediators on Monday night that it was sticking to its demands for a “permanent ceasefire,” hours after praising the passing of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a temporary halt to fighting in Gaza.

Jerusalem has dismissed the terror group’s demands, which also include an Israeli military withdrawal from the coastal enclave, a return of displaced Gazans and the release of hundreds of terrorists from Israeli prisons, as “delusional.”

Hamas is still holding 134 hostages out of 253 captured during its onslaught of the northwestern Negev on Oct. 7. Some 1,200 people, mostly Israeli civilians, were killed during the attack and thousands more were wounded.

American, Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari interlocutors have been shuttling to Cairo, Doha and Paris in recent months in an attempt to hash out a ceasefire agreement that would see the release of the remaining abductees.

The Israeli delegation, led by Mossad chief David Barnea, was in the Qatari capital over the weekend amid reports that Jerusalem has softened its stance on critical components of a deal. They were waiting for a response from Hamas’s leadership in Gaza, which came in the form of an apparent rejection.

Israelis call for the release of Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, outside a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv, March 22, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
(source: JNS)

Lower-level officials stayed in Doha this week after Barnea returned to Israel on Saturday night. However, Channel 12 reported on Tuesday that Barnea summoned the team back home following the Hamas statement.

Israel “did not respond to any of the basic demands of our people and our resistance [Hamas]: a comprehensive ceasefire, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced and a real exchange of prisoners,” the terror group said.

The terrorist organization further claimed that “Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his extremist government bear full responsibility for thwarting all negotiation efforts and obstructing reaching an agreement so far.”

Hamas earlier on Monday thanked the U.N. Security Council for passing a resolution demanding a temporary halt to the Israel Defense Forces operation against the terror group in the Gaza Strip.

The U.N. Security Council adopts Resolution 2728 (2024) 14-0, demanding an immediate ceasefire to Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip during Ramadan and immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and being held in Gaza, with Washington abstaining, March 25, 2024 . Credit: Loey Felipe/United Nations Photo. (source: JNS)

“Hamas calls on the Security Council to pressure the occupation [Israel] to adhere to the ceasefire and stop the war of genocide and ethnic cleansing against our people,” it said in a statement posted online.

The statement added that a truce is needed to “bury our martyrs who have remained under the rubble” and for “humanitarian needs.”

The U.N. resolution, which calls for a halt to the fighting until the end of Ramadan on April 9, was supported by 14 nations, including veto holders China, Russia, the United Kingdom and France. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield abstained, allowing the measure to pass.

Israeli troops operating in the Gaza Strip, March 23, 2024. Credit: IDF.
(source: JNS)

The text also demands the “immediate and unconditional release” of the 134 remaining hostages taken during Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror rampage, though it does not link that demand to the call for a ceasefire.

Hamas said it was willing “to engage in an immediate prisoner exchange process that leads to the release of prisoners on both sides.”

The terror group expressed its hope for “a permanent ceasefire that leads to the withdrawal of all Zionist forces from the Gaza Strip and the return of the displaced [Palestinians] to the homes from which they left.”

Netanyahu on Monday canceled a high-level delegation’s planned visit to Washington after the Biden administration failed to veto the resolution.

Following Monday’s vote, Jerusalem announced that “in light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will not depart.”

Netanyahu said that the changed U.S. position “hurts the war effort and the effort to release the hostages” by giving the Hamas terrorist organization hope that international pressure will bring about a ceasefire without freeing the captives.

The prime minister on Tuesday responded to Hamas’s rejection of the latest proposal, saying that the terror group’s “position clearly proves that Hamas is not interested in continuing negotiations for a deal, and is an unfortunate testimony to the damage of the Security Council’s decision,” according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Hamas once again rejected any American compromise proposal and repeated its extreme demands: an immediate end to the war, a complete withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip and remaining in power so that it could repeat the massacre of October 7 again and again, as it had promised to do,” the premier continued.

As part of truce talks taking place in Doha, Israeli officials had reportedly agreed to release between 700 and 800 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

The inmates include 100 serving life sentences for murdering Israelis, Axios journalist Barak Ravid reported on Sunday, citing two Israeli officials.

Ravid reported that the number stands at 700, while an Israeli official briefed on the Doha talks told Reuters it could reach as high as 800.

Women rally outside of Hakirya Military Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, calling on the government to do more for the release of hostages, many of them young women, still being kept in the Gaza Strip, Feb. 1, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
(source: JNS)

Hamas has reportedly demanded the release of 700 to 1,000 prisoners as part of any deal. An Israeli official told Ravid that the 700 figure is the same as a Qatari proposal from a few weeks ago, but that the number of prisoners serving life sentences is lower.

The proposed exchange would take place over the course of a six-week ceasefire, which the United States and other international players seek to turn into a permanent truce. However, Jerusalem is determined to end the war only after Hamas is defeated, including via a military invasion of Rafah city, the terror group’s last bastion in Gaza in the southernmost part of the Strip.

“Israel will not submit to the delusional demands of Hamas, and will continue to act to achieve all the goals of the war: to release all the abductees, to destroy the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel,” Netanyahu said.

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