War Cabinet Minister says IDF will operate in Rafah on Ramadan if no hostage deal

Egyptian and Qatari sources claim that Hamas has softened its position on conditions for a hostage release.

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz  announced a new hostage deal may be underway, but if no agreement is reached in three weeks, the IDF will operate in Rafah during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Speaking at the IDF Tel Aviv headquarters, Gantz said that there were “initial signs that indicate the possibility of moving forward” on a new framework.

Gantz declared that the war cabinet would  “leave no stone unturned” in an effort to free the more than 130 hostages in Gaza.

Unlike the previous negotiations which focused on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, other members of the war cabinet, including  Benny Gantz and former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, will play a pivotal role in negotiation and decision making in any future hostage deal.

According to Saudi reports earlier in the week, Egyptian and Qatari sources claimed that Hamas had softened their position on conditions for a hostage release.

Channel 12 reported that an Israeli delegation may go to Paris on Friday to negotiate a new hostage deal depending on the outcome of the current discussions in Cairo.

The Paris meeting is expected to include the same participants as in the previous hostage negotiations over a month ago.

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The attendees will likely include Mossad chief David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and CIA chief Bill Burns, the network said.

The previous Paris hostage release proposal reached an impasse when Hamas demanded a permanent ceasefire and that Israel completely withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip.

In addition, Hamas demanded the release of 5,000 Palestinian prisoners, many serving life sentences for murdering Israelis.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Hamas’s demands “delusional” and said “only military pressure and tough negotiations” could secure the release of the hostages.

Sources say that a deadline of three weeks has been set to reach an agreement on the release of hostages, with the last day coinciding with the beginning of Ramadan.

There is significant leverage on both sides, since Hamas wants to avoid the IDF operating in Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold, particularly during Ramadan, and Israel is seeking the release of its hostages that have been held captive since October 7th.