Israel says that the Rafah operations will go ahead because the Hamas agreement is still “far” from meeting its demands



CNN

Israel said the terms of a ceasefire agreement accepted by Hamas on Monday were still “far from” meeting its demands and warned that its military operations in Rafah would continue even as it sent negotiators to talk to mediators.

Hamas said in a statement on Monday that the head of its political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, informed the Qatari Prime Minister and the Egyptian Minister of Intelligence that the movement had accepted their proposals for a ceasefire and the hostage agreement.

Palestinians celebrated the statement in the streets of Gaza, while the hostages’ families and supporters in Tel Aviv appealed to Israel’s leaders to accept the deal.

However, shortly after, Israel said that the terms accepted by Hamas were still far from meeting its “requirements,” and reiterated its commitment to launching an attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying its war cabinet had “unanimously decided” to continue military operations. The operation “to exert military pressure on Hamas.” But it agreed to send a delegation to the mediators for further talks.

Later Monday evening, the Israeli army announced that it had “carried out targeted strikes against Hamas terrorist targets in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.” Video clips and photos obtained by CNN showed several explosions in the Rafah area on Monday evening.

Barak Ravid, a political and global affairs analyst at CNN, said that Israeli forces will take control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing in the next few hours, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

This news comes just hours after Israel Command The Palestinians living in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip demanded “immediate evacuation.”

The matter has raised fears that a long-threatened Israeli attack on the city may be imminent. More than a million Palestinians have fled to Rafah, where Hamas is believed to have regrouped after Israel destroyed most of northern Gaza.

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A source familiar with Israeli plans told CNN that the limited incursion into Rafah was intended to maintain pressure on Hamas to agree to a deal that would lead to a ceasefire and the release of the hostages.

US officials told CNN they are closely monitoring reports of explosions in Rafah, and have “real concerns” about the unfolding situation, but they do not believe what is happening now is the beginning of a major Israeli military operation in southern Gaza.

White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the Biden administration remains opposed to Israel’s entry into Rafah.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman, Dr. Majid bin Mohammed Al-Ansari, said that ceasefire talks continue today, Tuesday He said in a statement Early Tuesday local time.

He added that the Qatari delegation will head to Cairo on Tuesday morning to continue indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas after Hamas sent a response to the mediators participating in the ceasefire proposal that “can be described as positive.”

The Qatari announcement comes amid international calls to reach an agreement on a ceasefire and the release of the hostages. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on the Israeli government and Hamas to agree on a ceasefire agreement following Hamas’ announcement.

A senior Israeli official and a senior US official said that Hamas had agreed to a framework proposal, which differed from the proposal that Israel helped draft with Egypt. The senior American official said that the latest proposal calls for an end to the war, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously said he would not accept.

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According to a press release, Hamas said it would not back down from its demands in the latest proposal, which include “a ceasefire, complete withdrawal, dignified exchange, reconstruction, and lifting the siege.”

Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli Defense Cabinet, said on Monday that there are “big gaps” between Israel and Hamas. Despite this, we continue to turn over every stone, and a delegation will go to Cairo.”

A previous framework, which Israel helped draft but did not fully agree to, called for the release of between 20 and 33 hostages over several weeks in exchange for a temporary ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

After the initial exchange, according to this framework, what sources describe as a “restoration of sustainable calm” will follow during which the remaining hostages, captured Israeli soldiers and hostage bodies will be exchanged for more Palestinian prisoners.

The White House confirmed on Monday that there had been a “Hamas response” to the proposed hostage deal in Israel, and that US President Joe Biden had been briefed on that response, but declined to comment specifically on what the deal might entail. .

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said in a press conference that Biden “is aware of where the situation is and where the operation is.” Kirby added that CIA Director Bill Burns is still in the region “working directly on the ground.”

He said: “We still believe that reaching an agreement is the best outcome ever, not only for the hostages, but for the Palestinian people, and we will not stop working to achieve this outcome.”

AFP/Getty Images

Palestinians in Rafah celebrate the news that Hamas has accepted a ceasefire proposal, May 6, 2024.

In response to a question about whether Hamas’ acceptance of the agreement could change Israel’s plans regarding Rafah, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the army would continue to operate in Gaza. He said that operations are continuing, but the Israeli army is making every effort in negotiations to return the hostages to their homeland “as quickly as possible.”

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Netanyahu has come under intense pressure from the more extreme wing of his coalition not to accept the ceasefire proposal put forward last week, and to focus instead on destroying Hamas in Rafah.

Orit Struck, Israel’s settlements minister and a member of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, said last week that accepting the deal would “throw” Israel’s military progress “into the trash.”

Itamar Ben Gvir, the Israeli Minister of National Security, said that Netanyahu “promised that Israel would enter Rafah, confirmed that the war would not end, and pledged that there would be no reckless deal.”

But large parts of the Israeli public demanded that Netanyahu accept the deal. Families and supporters of the hostages closed the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv last week, raising a banner that read: “Rafah or hostages – choose life.”

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, who is seen as a rival and potential successor to Netanyahu, said the return of the hostages was more urgent than entering Rafah.

In response to Hamas’ announcement on Monday, the Hostage Families Forum said: “Now is the time for all parties involved to fulfill their obligations and turn this opportunity into a deal to return all the hostages.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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