Netanyahu accused Hamas of making unrealistic demands (Reuters)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed his intention to postpone the military operation in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, if a deal to exchange detainees and prisoners was reached, while Washington confirmed that the mediators had reached an understanding on the basic features of the deal.

In statements he made to the American CBS network, and reported by a correspondent for the American website Axios, Netanyahu accused the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) of making unrealistic demands.

Netanyahu stressed that he did not know if an agreement would be reached, but he pointed out that “if Hamas gives up its unrealistic demands, there will be an agreement and the process in Rafah will be delayed a little.”

Netanyahu said, "If an agreement is not reached, the Israeli forces will move into Rafah," adding that after the start of the operation in Rafah, the operation in Gaza will end within a few weeks, denying the possibility of leaving the last stronghold of Hamas without dealing with it.

He explained that Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy would present his plan in Rafah, including the evacuation of residents, denying the existence of disagreements with the United States regarding the need to evacuate civilians from Rafah.

He pledged to direct them to an area north of Rafah.

The Israeli Prime Minister said that peace with Egypt is not at risk and that coordination is underway with the Egyptian side.

In this context, Israeli media reported that Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that the negotiations are taking place in a strange way and the prisoner release deal should be better, stressing that he will vote against any deal that is not the best for Israel.

American optimism

At the mediation level, the White House announced that the United States, Israel, Egypt, and Qatar had reached an understanding on the basic features of the deal.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN that the agreement is still under negotiation, noting that indirect talks should be held between Qatar and Egypt with Hamas.

This comes at a time when talks have resumed in Doha, which will be followed by another round in Cairo with the participation of American, Israeli and Hamas officials, according to what Egyptian media reported from Egyptian sources.

Earlier this month, Cairo witnessed high-level talks between American, Qatari and Israeli delegations seeking to stop the war, which did not lead to any significant results.

Earlier today, Israeli Channel 12 said that the War Council decided to allow an Israeli delegation to go to Qatar in the coming days to continue talks on the exchange deal.

The channel thus confirmed information revealed by officials and other Israeli media yesterday, Saturday.

In the same context, Reuters quoted Egyptian security sources as saying that Qatar will host talks this week regarding a truce and prisoner exchange.

Last Friday, the head of the Israeli Foreign Intelligence Service (Mossad), David Barnea, participated - last Friday - in a new round of talks regarding a possible agreement that includes an exchange of prisoners and an expanded truce in Gaza, along with the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, and Prime Minister Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, and Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel.

Cautious optimism

Earlier today, the official broadcasting authority spoke from Israeli sources of optimism that understandings would be reached before the month of Ramadan, which begins in less than two weeks, but it quoted a security official that the potential deal would not prevent the ground operation in Rafah.

Israeli Channel 12 also quoted an Israeli official - whose identity was not revealed - that there was great progress and a solid basis for the talks, expressing his optimism about reaching an agreement on the possible exchange deal.

On the other hand, Taher Al-Nono, media advisor to the head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said that Netanyahu rejects “the basic keys to the success of the negotiations” and recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Al-Nono stated, “Netanyahu’s primary goal in proceeding with the war (on the Gaza Strip) is to achieve purely personal and electoral interests and protect himself.”

Al-Nono said, “Netanyahu’s primary goal in moving forward with the war is to achieve purely personal and electoral interests and protect himself” (Al Jazeera)

A leadership source in Hamas said - today, Sunday - that the atmosphere of optimism about the nearness of reaching an agreement on a possible prisoner exchange deal does not reflect the truth, after reports spoke of progress in the negotiations that may allow the conclusion of an agreement before the month of Ramadan.

In the talks that took place weeks ago in Paris and then in Cairo, a framework was reached, and the mediators received a response from Israel and Hamas, and Tel Aviv rejected the movement’s demands and considered them unrealistic.

Hamas and other factions stressed that any agreement must lead to a cessation of aggression and the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from the Gaza Strip, which is what the Netanyahu government has rejected so far.

Source: Al Jazeera