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Hamas Agrees to Hostage/Truce Deal, Israel Answers with Bombing of Rafah

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Credit:

Hamas announced in a statement yesterday that they had accepted the agreement for a truce with Israel, including an exchange of hostages and prisoners, as put forward by Egyptian and Qatari mediators. The statement said that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh had informed Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani of their agreement. The details were not immediately available. However, various reports indicate that Hamas consented to allow the phrase “sustainable calm,” instead of their previous insistence upon a simple end to the war. If that is the case, they would be gambling that the U.S. would be able to follow through on whatever assurances they were offering, that they would restrain Israel from taking advantage of that looser term.

Immediately, Israel’s Hostages Families Forum urged that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government act in good faith and accept the agreement. They stated: “Now is the time for all that are involved, to fulfill their commitment and turn this opportunity into a deal for the return of all the hostages.”

It is reported that Netanyahu’s government was caught off-guard by Hamas’s agreement. Around 8 p.m. local time (UTC+3), Netanyahu’s office announced that the War Cabinet had “unanimously decided that Israel will continue its operation in Rafah in order to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to promote the release of our hostages and the other goals of the war.” That seemed like a pretty clear rejection of the hostage-truce deal. Then about two hours later, Netanyahu’s office stated that the ceasefire proposal was “far from Israel’s necessary requirements.” Even so, they will send a delegation of “mediators to exhaust the possibility of reaching an agreement under conditions acceptable to Israel.” The mid-level delegation was not empowered to make any agreements.

Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Dr. Majed bin Mohammed Al-Ansari stated on May 6 that talks would continue on May 7 and that a Qatari delegation would head to Cairo. He reported that Hamas’s response yesterday “can be described as positive.”