Looming Rafah operation prompts international push for hostage deal, source says

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The intensive international efforts to reach a hostage deal are motivated by a desire to head off an IDF operation in Rafah, an Israeli official tells The Times of Israel.

“Nobody wants Israel to enter Rafah,” says the official. “The only way to avoid it is to reach a hostage deal.”

Regional and Western diplomats are meeting in Saudi Arabia this week to discuss a hostage deal and a possible IDF incursion into Rafah. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in Israel on Tuesday.

The official declines to offer details on the latest Israeli proposal for a deal, but stresses that “Israel made great concessions,” including on Palestinians returning to northern Gaza.

The official does not say whether Israel is offering a potential end to the war, as Hebrew-language outlets reported yesterday. “Even if it does happen, it will be semantics,” says the official.

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