Hamas says truce talks failed because Israel wouldn’t promise end to war; cabinet meets

Haniyeh complains Jerusalem wouldn’t agree to permanent ceasefire or troop withdrawal – demands Israel has called ‘delusional’ – but insists terror group still open to negotiations

Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a recorded speech, March 10, 2024. (Screenshot, X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh delivers a recorded speech, March 10, 2024. (Screenshot, X; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday that pre-Ramadan truce negotiations had failed because Israel refused to promise a permanent ceasefire, as Israel’s war cabinet huddled to discuss ongoing but seemingly stalled attempts to reach a deal to pause the war and release the hostages.

In a recorded speech, the Qatar-based leader of the terror organization said that Israel “evaded giving clear guarantees regarding the ceasefire, the withdrawal of its forces or the guarantees for the return of the displaced Gazans.”

The comments came a day after Israel’s Mossad intelligence service issued a rare statement blaming Hamas for the impasse, claiming that the terror group was stiffening its demands and uninterested in reaching a deal, preferring to foment unrest over Ramadan instead.

Haniyeh claimed Hamas “showed positivity and responsibility in the course of the negotiations.” But he said that the terror group would not accept an agreement “that does not end the war or expel the enemy from Gaza.”

Israel has rejected Hamas’s conditioning of further hostage releases on an Israeli commitment to end the war as “delusional,” vowing to resume the campaign as soon as any hostages-for-truce deal is carried out.

In Israel, the war cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and minister Benny Gantz met Sunday evening on the moribund truce talks, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

Among the other issues on the agenda were preparations for Ramadan and humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Haniyeh said Hamas was in support of keeping talks going. “I say clearly that the one who bears responsibility for not reaching an agreement is [Israel],” Haniyeh said. “However, I say that we are open to continuing negotiations.”

Haniyeh thanked the “resistance fronts” – Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen, as well as other Iran-backed forces – for supporting the terror group’s fight against Israel. Hamas avowedly seeks Israel’s destruction.

Egyptian security sources told the Saudi news channel al-Arabiya on Sunday that the country had been in contact with senior Hamas and Israeli figures in an effort to restart the negotiations for a truce during the first week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins Monday in some parts of the Muslim world.

US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators have been scrambling to secure a six-week truce in the five-month-old war in Gaza based on a framework reached in Paris last month.

The Paris framework, thus far rejected by Hamas, would see 40 children, women, elderly and sick hostages released in the first phase of some six weeks, in exchange for some 400 Palestinian security prisoners, with the possibility of further releases to be negotiated.

Israel did not send a delegation to the latest round of truce talks in Cairo, after Hamas refused to provide a list of living hostages, and a Hamas delegation left the Egyptian capital on Thursday after expressing frustration with Israel’s positions, heading to Qatar for consultation with the group’s leadership.

An unnamed senior Israeli source close to the negotiations was quoted by Channel 12 on Saturday saying that Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, “believes that the more his [Gaza] public suffers, the greater the pressure on Israel and the better the terms he’ll get in negotiations [on a hostage deal]. A deal takes two sides, and right now the other side doesn’t want one.”

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Haniyeh and Sinwar were at odds over the conditions Hamas should accept for a deal with Israel.

According to the report, the prevailing dynamic within Hamas has flipped, with the terrorist organization’s chief in Gaza, Sinwar, backing a temporary truce while its leaders outside of the Strip are pushing for further Israeli concessions, a permanent ceasefire, and a plan to rebuild Gaza.

Officials briefed on the talks told The New York Times Thursday that Hamas has “backed away” from the proposed agreement in Paris and, in addition to a permanent ceasefire, is also demanding the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes in the northern part of the enclave, and “provisions” for Gazans.

Israel had already agreed to the Paris principles, including a temporary truce of six weeks, a “redeployment” of Israeli troops within Gaza — but not a complete withdrawal — and for Israel to enable the return of Palestinian women and children to northern Gaza, from where hundreds of thousands evacuated during the fighting, and which Israel has kept cut off from the rest of the enclave.

Meanwhile, Qatar has reportedly threatened to expel Hamas’s leaders from the country if they don’t agree to a hostage deal, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing an unnamed Hamas official and Egyptian officials. Qatar, a key mediator between Israel and the terror group, hosts Hamas’s political bureau chief Haniyeh.

Husam Badran, a senior official of the terror group who is based in Doha, denied the claim. He told the WSJ that without a deal, violence will escalate during Ramadan, set to begin Monday morning in much of the Muslim world.

“We didn’t declare negotiations have been stopped. We are the party most keen to stop this war,” he said.

Hamas and Israel have been fighting a war that was triggered by the Palestinian terror group’s unprecedented shock onslaught on October 7, which saw terrorists kill about 1,200 people, mostly civilians slaughtered amid horrific brutality and sexual assault, and take 253 hostages.

The ensuing Israeli offensive against Hamas in Gaza has killed over 31,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. These numbers cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives. Israel says it has killed over 13,000 operatives since the beginning of the war in Gaza and 1,000 inside Israel on October 7.

Over 100 hostages were released in November as part of a temporary truce deal. Some 130 are believed to still be held by Palestinian terror groups, not all of them alive.

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