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War in the Middle East: Gaza agreement depends on hardliners

War in the Middle East: Gaza agreement depends on hardliners

The fate of the hostages in Gaza hangs in the balance. According to the media, Hamas leader Sinwar is calling for an end to the war, which Israel rejects. Is he playing for time? The news at a glance.

According to media reports, the indirect negotiations over a hostage deal in the Gaza war have reached a critical point. The leadership in Israel assumes that the Islamist Hamas will officially reject the latest offer for an agreement on the release of Israeli hostages and a ceasefire, the Times of Israel newspaper quoted a government official as saying.

The war cabinet had previously met at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the possible start of the controversial ground offensive in Rafah in the south of the sealed off Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, dozens of family members of Israeli hostages and their supporters demonstrated outside, according to the newspaper, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to an agreement that would ensure the release of the hostages in Gaza – no matter what the price.

Türkiye stops trade with Israel

Meanwhile, Turkey decided to suspend exports and imports of all Israel-related products due to Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip. The Turkish Ministry of Trade announced this on Thursday evening on the X platform, formerly Twitter. The new measures would be strictly implemented until the Israeli government allows the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly criticized Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip and accused Israel of “genocide”.

Israel’s foreign minister reacted angrily to the trade stop. “Erdogan is breaking agreements by blocking ports for Israeli imports and exports,” wrote Israel Katz on X. “This is how a dictator behaves, disregarding the interests of the Turkish people and businessmen.” Katz also complained that Ankara was ignoring international trade agreements.

Gaza deal depends on hardliners from Israel and Hamas

An agreement on a ceasefire in the Gaza war now depends on the two hardliners Netanyahu and Jihia al-Sinwar – the latter is the leader of Hamas in Gaza. Both futures are at stake in this war and their calculations leave little room for compromise, wrote the Wall Street Journal.

Netanyahu, against whom a corruption trial has been underway for a long time, is dependent on his right-wing extremist coalition partners for his political survival. They had recently threatened to end the government if the hostage deal on the table was implemented and an operation in Rafah was called off. Even if Hamas were to accept an agreement unconditionally, it is not clear whether Israel would agree to it, wrote the Times of Israel.

Hamas leader is suspected in tunnels under Rafah

Sinwar, in turn, believed that he could survive an attack on Rafah, the Wall Street Journal quoted Arab negotiators who negotiated with him. The Hamas leader is believed to be in the Hamas tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. According to Arab mediators, Sinwar believes he has already won the war with Israel, regardless of whether he survives it or not.

Because he brought the suffering of the Palestinians and the conflict with Israel to the center of global attention. Sinwar’s goal is to secure the release of hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons in exchange for hostages in the Gaza Strip and to reach an agreement that ends the war and ensures the survival of Hamas.

Hamas leader calls for changes to the negotiation offer

Regarding the current negotiation offer, Sinwar is demanding a guaranteed end to the war, a source close to the Hamas leader told the Israeli television channel Channel 12. Israel has so far rejected this. Sinwar reportedly wants a written commitment for an “unconditional end to the fighting.”

He also demanded that the Palestinian prisoners that Israel would have to release from prisons in exchange for Israeli hostages not be barred from returning to the West Bank. Israel wants to send those serving life sentences to the Gaza Strip or abroad, according to the latest draft deal.

Sinwar is also demanding more information about materials that Israel does not want delivered to the sealed-off coastal area for reconstruction. The broadcaster Channel 12 speculates that Sinwar wants to ensure that Hamas can rebuild its tunnels.

Sinwar, born in the Gaza Strip in 1962, belongs to the founding generation of Hamas. In the early years of the Islamist movement, he was responsible for the fight against suspected collaborators with Israel within his own ranks and was involved in setting up the military wing of Hamas. Sinwar spent more than two decades in Israeli custody for the murder of, among other things, two Israeli soldiers. He used this time to learn Hebrew and study the enemy. He was released in 2011 – as one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

Hamas wants to continue negotiations in Cairo

In messages that Hamas’ military wing passed on to Arab mediators, Sinwar indicated that time was on his side, the Wall Street Journal continued. Because the longer he waits, the international pressure on Israel increases. Sinwar’s terrorist organization announced yesterday that it would send another delegation to Egypt to continue indirect negotiations on a hostage deal.

According to the state-affiliated Egyptian television channel Al-Kahira News, a Hamas delegation is expected to arrive in the capital Cairo within the next two days. The Egyptian mediators are now trying, with US support, to overcome the disagreements between Israel and Hamas, the TV station Channel 12 reported.

The Israeli government has announced a rapid start to the offensive in Rafah if an agreement is not reached. Allies such as the United States have repeatedly warned Israel against a large-scale attack on Rafah because of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian internally displaced people there.

After around seven months of war, the city in the very south of Gaza is the only one in the coastal area that is still comparatively intact. The local director of the UN development agency UNDP spoke of the worst destruction in a region since the Second World War. The war was triggered by the massacre carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other groups in Israel on October 7th.

Source: Stern

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