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No decisions as security cabinet meets for four hours over Gaza Hamas deal

Short statement only says that ministers were briefed and IDF is prepared for any scenario; no word on Israelis held by terror group

Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin (c), Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, (r) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott, attending a security cabinet meeting at the Kirya, the IDF Headquarters, in Tel Aviv, on February 10, 2018. (Ariel Hermony/Ministry of Defense)
Illustrative: Prime Minister Benjamin (c), Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, (r) and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkott, attending a security cabinet meeting at the Kirya, the IDF Headquarters, in Tel Aviv, on February 10, 2018. (Ariel Hermony/Ministry of Defense)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with members of his security cabinet for almost four hours Sunday, to discuss Israel’s response to a possible Egyptian-brokered truce with Hamas, the terror group that runs Gaza.

A short statement issued after statement gave no indication if any decision had been made.

“The IDF Chief of Staff updated the security cabinet on the situation regarding Gaza,” the security cabinet said in a statement. “The IDF is prepared for any scenario.”

Hadashot news reported that the meeting ended without any clear conclusions and the ministers did not vote on any proposal.

The television station reported that Netanyahu told his ministers that there was no chance for a permanent deal with Hamas which would include the return of the soldiers and civilians held in Gaza, because the fundamentalist group would not give up on its independence.

Hamas reportedly demanded that Israel free terrorists held in its prisons in exchange for the return of the captives it holds — a demand Israel will not agree to.

Rather, the proposal under discussion was what is known by the defense establishment as a “forced agreement.” This would be a cessation of violence, whereby Hamas would agree to halt all attacks on Israel and in exchange Israel and Egypt would open the border crossings and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group, which runs the West Bank reportedly criticized Hamas for considering any deal which would bring an end to violence without any political gain, but merely in exchange for humanitarian aid, Hadashot said.

The reported agreement with Hamas would contradict what many Israeli officials have repeatedly stressed — that they will not accept any agreement with Hamas that does not include the return of the captives held by Hamas.

During the security cabinet meeting, ministers reportedly criticized, “The blunt approach and almost unbearable pressure,” of the families of the captives, Hadashot reported. They reportedly said that the pressure from the families was harming Israel and would lead it to war.

Families of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers killed in action in 2014 whose remains are believed to be in Hamas’s hands, held a press conference earlier Sunday accusing the government of failing to include the return of their loved ones as a condition of the deal.

The families of Goldin, Shaul and civilians Avera Mengistu and Jumaa Ibrahim Abu Ghanima — who are believed to be held by Hamas after entering Gaza of their own volition — held a protest outside the Prime Minister’s Office while the meeting was taking place.

Left to right: Oron Shaul, Hadar Goldin and Avraham Mengistu. (Flash90/The Times of Israel)

Zehava Shaul, the mother of soldier Oron Shaul accused Netanyahu of losing his temper some two years ago, yelling at her and her husband and calling them “liars.”

Netanyahu’s office firmly denied the claim, saying he has never shouted at any bereaved families or hurled accusations at them.

Hamas leaders have been meeting in Gaza over the weekend but no details of their talks have emerged. Reports over the weekend indicated the Gaza terrorist group would be willing to sign the long-term ceasefire with Israel on the condition that Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on the its border crossings be eased.

Meanwhile, Gazans continued to launch incendiary kites and balloons across the border throughout the day.

A Israeli Fire and Rescue Services spokesman said that throughout the day, firefighters had responded to six fires in southern Israel that were sparked by the balloons.

Earlier, the IDF said it fired on Gazan operatives launching the balloons into Israel, as well as at a vehicle used by a second cell.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry said four people were injured in the Israeli strike.

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