As Israel sends delegation to Cairo, official downplays rumors of a ‘breakthrough’ hostage deal

‘If we await a softening of Hamas’ stance, I don’t believe we are there yet.’

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

Despite enthusiastic reporting from Saudi Arabia of Hamas “softening” its demands in a hostage release deal, an Israeli official recommends optimistic reports be viewed “with caution” as Israel sends a delegation to Cairo.

Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Wednesday that Egyptian diplomatic sources said Hamas was “softening its position” on a hostage deal.

The previous Paris hostage deal included a phased release of hostages during a 6 week pause in fighting, but Hamas rejected this proposal and demanded nothing short of a permanent ceasefire with Israel withdrawing its troops from the Gaza Strip and the release of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, many serving life sentences for murdering Israelis.

Netanyahu rejected any deal that would have a permanent ceasefire as a condition and declared in a speech on Sunday that “military pressure and tough negotiations” will secure the release of the over 130 hostages still in Gaza.

Netanyahu also explained on Sunday that he refused to send an additional delegation to Cairo as long as Hamas hadn’t stepped back from its “delusional” demands.

However, the news that Israel was sending a delegation on Wednesday may have spurred on rumors of a “breakthrough” deal.

Although Netanyahu’s giving a green light to sending a delegation may imply there has been some change in Hamas’s stance, an Israeli official warned, “Unless something significant has changed since last night to this morning I would be very cautious (about a breakthrough).”

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They added, “If we await a softening of Hamas’ stance, I don’t believe we are there yet.”

When asked by i24 if there was any justification for the enthusiasm expressed by the Egyptian diplomatic source quoted by the Saudi newspaper, they replied, “I’m completely unsure.”

The Asharq Al-Awsat journalist wrote, “Progress has been made in discussions between Egypt and Hamas regarding the agreement.”

The Israeli official commented, “We must be cautious, Egypt has an interest in presenting a positive display of advancement in talks.”

In the meantime, Israel is deliberating whether to send a new delegation to a summit in Paris on Friday during which a new framework for a hostage deal will be discussed.

The decision will be based on the outcome of talks in Cairo during the next few days.