ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Report: Israel tells hostage deal mediators it rejects Hamas demands but still ready for talks

Israelis attend a rally outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza outside the Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv, February 8, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)
Israelis attend a rally outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza outside the Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv, February 8, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Israel told Egyptian and Qatari mediators last night that it rejects most of the demands made in the response issued by Hamas to a hostage deal framework, but that it is still ready to launch negotiations on that original framework, Axios reports.

The original framework was crafted during a Paris meeting last month of top officials from the US, Israel, Qatar and Egypt.

It reportedly envisioned a three-phase humanitarian pause — with 35 to 40 Israeli hostages, including women, men over the age of 60 and those with serious medical conditions released during the first six-week phase. Israeli soldiers and the bodies of killed hostages would be released in the second and third phases. Details regarding the latter phases, as well as the number of Palestinian security prisoners who would be released by Israel, were to be discussed in subsequent negotiations if the sides both agreed to the Paris proposal. Other reports offered different versions of the framework, which has not been officially published.

Hamas offered its response to the framework on Tuesday, demanding that Israel, among other things, release at least 1,500 Palestinian security prisoners, withdraw its troops fully from Gaza, eventually agree to a permanent ceasefire and take steps to reduce its sovereignty on the Temple Mount.

Netanyahu called the demands “delusional” and he reportedly rejected an Egyptian proposal to send a representative to Cairo in order to move forward with the negotiations.

The war cabinet discussed the Hamas response further last night. Ministers agreed that Israel would not accept another two of the Hamas demands — that the IDF withdraw its forces from the “corridor” that splits the northern and southern Gaza Strip, and allow for the return of civilians to northern Gaza during the first stage of the pause, Axios reports. However, it would be willing to discuss withdrawing troops from the major Gaza population centers during the pause.

These stances were passed along to the mediators, as well as Israel’s rejection of Hamas’s demand that language be added to the agreement pertaining to a permanent ceasefire, Axios said, citing an official who said Israel does not want to commit to refraining from resuming strikes against Hamas after the deal is implemented.

Israel also told the mediators that it would not discuss a demand included by Hamas for Israel to “lift the siege over Gaza,” the official tells Axios.

Israel told the mediators that the number of prisoners the Palestinians are demanding was not reasonable, as were all demands not related to the Gaza war, Axios says.

Israeli officials told the news site that while they aren’t sending representatives to Cairo for talks now, they’re in constant talks with the mediators and are willing to send representatives if some of the gaps are closed.

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