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Hamas official says group will not agree to truce that does not end Gaza war

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Jerusalem: A senior Hamas official insisted late Saturday that the group would “not agree under any circumstances” to a truce in Gaza that did not explicitly include a complete end to the war.

The official, who asked not to be named, decried Israeli efforts to obtain a deal on releasing hostages “without linking it to ending the aggression on Gaza”.

“Hamas will not agree under any circumstances to an agreement that does not explicitly include a cessation of the war on Gaza,” the official said.

“There will be no agreement without a complete cessation of the war and the withdrawal of the occupation from the entire Gaza Strip.”

A high-level Israeli official said earlier Saturday that Hamas’s failure to give up its demand to end the war was “thwarting the possibility of reaching an agreement”.

The comments came after Hamas negotiators returned to Egypt on Saturday to give their response to a proposed pause in the nearly seven-month war. The Israeli official however said the country would only send a delegation to Cairo if it saw “positive movement” on the framework for a hostage deal, something that did not appear to be the case.Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been waiting for Hamas to respond to a proposal that would halt fighting for 40 days and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, according to details released by Britain.

Despite months of shuttle diplomacy between the warring parties, the mediators have been unable to broker a new truce like the week-long ceasefire that saw 105 hostages released last November, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinians held by Israel.

The Hamas official said late Saturday the talks had ended for the day after “no developments”.

“Hamas has requested that the agreement include a clear and explicit provision stating, ‘Agreement on a complete and permanent ceasefire,’ and so far Israel has rejected this point until now,” the official said.

Fears for Rafah
Hamas has said a main stumbling block is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on sending ground troops into Rafah, the south Gaza city that is packed with displaced civilians.

Washington has said repeatedly that it opposes any military operation in Rafah that endangers the 1.2 million civilians sheltering there.

“We are eager to reach an agreement, but not at any cost,” the Hamas official said, adding that if no deal is struck Israel would bear “full responsibility for insisting on entering Rafah instead of ceasing the aggression”.

Netanyahu was “personally hindering” a Gaza truce deal due to “personal interests”, the source charged, cautioning that if Israel goes ahead with plans for a ground offensive in Rafah it would be at its peril.

“We confirm that invading Rafah will not be a walk in the park, and the occupation will pay a heavy price for any adventure it embarks on, and it will end in failure.”

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