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Israeli official to NYT: Netanyahu’s comments caused Hamas to harden position in hostage talks

An unnamed Israeli official tells The New York Times that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements vowing that Israel will carry out an operation in Rafah had caused Hamas to harden its position in negotiations for a potential hostage and truce deal.

The official tells the newspaper that the negotiations were now in “crisis,” and that Hamas was using them to try to ensure that Israeli troops won’t begin a ground offensive in the southern Gaza city.

  • “Hamas, the official said, was now seeking further guarantees that Israel would not implement only part of an agreement, and then resume fighting,” The New York Times says.

Hours after The New York Times published the comments, the IDF began to call on residents of some eastern neighborhoods in Rafah to evacuate ahead of a potential ground offensive.

The newspaper describes the negotiations having had a “setback” over the weekend.

  • “We were very close, but Netanyahu’s narrowmindedness aborted an agreement,” Mousa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, tells the newspaper.

On Saturday, amid signs that a potential deal could be reached, another anonymous Israeli official — widely reported to be Netanyahu — released two statements asserting that there would not be any hostage agreement that entailed an end to the war.

Yesterday, Netanyahu doubled down on his rejection of Hamas’s demand for an end to Israel’s war against it in exchange for freeing the hostages it holds, saying that such a move would keep the Palestinian terror organization in power in Gaza and pose a threat to Israel.

  • Previous negotiations stalled in part due to Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire and Netanyahu’s vows to crush the group’s remaining fighters in the far-southern city of Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population is sheltering.

Source: TOI