Israeli negotiator: Hamas demand for ceasefire before hostage release ‘delusional’

Unnamed official says that if terror group ‘wants a truce for the benefit of Gaza’s residents,’ it must be through the negotiated release of those held captive in the Strip

Illustrative: Demonstrators hold images of five female soldiers held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, with a sign reading: 'Save those who can still be [saved],' outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Illustrative: Demonstrators hold images of five female soldiers held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, with a sign reading: 'Save those who can still be [saved],' outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

A member of Israel’s hostage negotiating team emphasized on Friday that there would not be a cessation of fighting in Gaza without the release of hostages, a day after Hamas said it would only negotiate with Israel if it ended its operations in the Strip first.

The unnamed official told the Ynet news site that the terror group’s stance was “delusional.”

“It won’t happen. Israel is fighting in Gaza, it will continue to fight in Gaza with all its strength, and if they want a truce for the benefit of Gaza’s residents it must only be through negotiating the release of hostages,” the official said.

The official said while Israel is determined to reach a deal, it is “clear to everyone that [Gaza’s Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar is trying to force a ceasefire, and it won’t happen.”

Hamas said Thursday that it would refuse to negotiate so long as fighting continued in Gaza.

“Hamas and the Palestinian factions will not accept to be part of this policy by continuing (ceasefire) negotiations in light of the aggression, siege, starvation and genocide of our people,” the Hamas statement read.

The entrance to a tunnel in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya where the bodies of seven Israeli hostages were recovered, in a handout photo published May 31, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Today, we informed the mediators of our clear position that if the occupation stops its war and aggression against our people in Gaza, our readiness (is) to reach a complete agreement that includes a comprehensive exchange deal,” it added.

Talks for a hostage deal have been stop-and-start for months — Hamas has said multiple times that it was not willing to make an agreement unless Israel stopped the fighting and pulled out of Gaza, while Israel has continued to maintain that the war would not end until the terrorist organization had been dismantled and the hostages released.

Mossad Chief David Barnea traveled to Paris last week to discuss restarting negotiations with US and Qatari mediators.

At the end of the meeting, the participants agreed to restart talks on “new proposals led by the mediators Egypt and Qatar, with active involvement of the US,” an Israel official told The Times of Israel after the meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, second right, leads a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on April 17, 2024. (Maayan Toaf / GPO)

The negotiations were set to begin this week with mediators passing Israel’s new proposal over to Hamas, but talks have not advanced amid Hamas’s demand to end the fighting before it agrees to restart talks.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, some ministers expressed that there was room for negotiations on the matter, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of his allied officials argued that it would be tantamount to surrender.

Relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip accused the government on Friday of “sacrificing” their loved ones, after a heated meeting attended by some of the families Thursday in which National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi reportedly said Israel would not end the war in Gaza for a deal to save all the abductees.

National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi arrives for a court hearing in the trial against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem District Court, March 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

According to Channel 12 news, during the meeting Hanegbi snapped at relatives who criticized Netanyahu, telling one that she had no place to “feel pain and hatred like this,” and mocking another relative when she moved to leave the room in anger.

Communications between the families of hostages and Netanyahu’s administration have grown increasingly fraught in recent months as protests against the government for failing to prioritize the hostages have ramped up, with some relatives joining forces with anti-government activist groups. Both sides have accused the other of politicizing the issue.

The war began on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel in which thousands of terrorists rampaged through southern Israel, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 252.

It is believed that 121 hostages remain in Gaza — not all of them alive.

The most recent round of negotiations saw Israel agree to a proposal that was put to Hamas, but the terror group, while claiming to also agree, responded with altered terms that Israel had not authorized.

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