Hamas official: Netanyahu’s insistence on Rafah operation is a ‘key’ issue in Cairo talks

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan speaks during a rally organized by Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, in the southern suburb of Beirut, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan speaks during a rally organized by Lebanon's Hezbollah terror group to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, in the southern suburb of Beirut, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

A senior Hamas official tells Al Jazeera that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel will enter Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah regardless of a potential hostage exchange deal is a “key element” being discussed in ongoing talks in Cairo today.

“Unfortunately, there was a clear statement from Netanyahu saying that regardless of what may happen, if there was a ceasefire or not, he will continue the attack,” senior Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan tells Al Jazeera.

“That means there will be no ceasefire, and that means that the attack will be continued, which is against what we are discussing,” he said.

While the Hamas spokesman says talks with Egyptian and Qatari mediators are “moving forward,” he claims they are focused on “the main issue, which is the complete ceasefire and complete withdrawal from Gaza.”

Hamas has called for a complete end to the war, sparked by the terror group’s October 7 massacre, and withdrawal of all Israel Defense Forces troops from Gaza, while Jerusalem insists it will go on to topple Hamas rule in the Strip after a pause in fighting to free the hostages.

“At least, we want to know exactly what does it mean, his statement, and the reaction from the mediators. Our understanding that any achievement for a ceasefire means that there will be no more attacks against Gaza and Rafah,” Hamdan is quoted as saying.

The Hamas official also charges that the United States could end the war in Gaza immediately if it chose to.

“If the United States administration has said clearly to Netanyahu, ‘enough is enough’… I assure you that will happen,” he claims.

Arab media reports earlier today claimed that the US had given assurances that Israel would withdraw all troops from Gaza at the completion of the third phase of a potential hostage deal, though an Israeli official appeared to reject the reports out of hand.

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