Egypt warns Hamas to accept latest hostage deal or IDF will invade Rafah

According to Israel, there are four Hamas battalions left in the city along the Egyptian border.

By Akiva Van Koningsveld, JNS

Egypt has warned Hamas that it must agree to a hostages-for-ceasefire deal with Jerusalem within two weeks to avert an Israel Defense Forces operation in the terror group’s last stronghold in the Gaza Strip, the southernmost city of Rafah, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

This week, Israel will reportedly dispatch to Cairo negotiators to discuss a new hostage deal with U.S., Egyptian, and Qatari officials.

Mossad chief David Barnea, Israel Security Agency head Ronen Bar and Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who is overseeing the IDF’s efforts to find the hostages, will meet with CIA director Bill Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate.

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said intelligence recovered by the IDF in Gaza is making a “realistic” deal possible.

“We penetrated into the heart of Hamas’s most sensitive places and are using their intelligence against them,” said Gallant. “The more we deepen this operation, the closer we are to a realistic deal in order to return the captives.”

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Hamas launched its war against the Jewish state on Oct. 7 with a large-scale invasion of the northwestern Negev, murdering 1,200, wounding thousands and kidnapping 253 people, with 136 hostages remaining in Gaza (at least 32 are confirmed dead and another 20 may have been killed).

Israeli forces began their ground offensive in Gaza on Oct. 27, determined to topple the terrorist group that has ruled the coastal enclave since 2007.

Destroying Hamas in Rafah is essential to achieve the objectives of Israel’s defensive operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated during an interview with ABC News airing on Sunday, amid intense international pressure against the pending offensive.

“Victory is within reach. We’re going to do it. We’re going to get the remaining Hamas terrorist battalions in Rafah, which is the last bastion, but we’re going to do it,” stated the premier.

According to Israel, there are four Hamas battalions left in the city along the Egyptian border, the population of which has swelled to some 1.5 million, more than half of Gaza’s total, after the IDF directed Gazans to a humanitarian zone there when fighting began in October.

Netanyahu has ordered the IDF and the security establishment to submit to the Cabinet a combined plan to evacuate civilians and destroy the battalions, stressing that it is “impossible” to win the war without taking Rafah, The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Friday.

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An Egyptian government spokesperson warned Israel last month against taking military action in a buffer zone along the Gaza-Egypt border known as the Philadelphi Corridor.

“Any Israeli move in this direction will lead to a serious threat to Egypt-Israel relations … Egypt is able to protect its interests and sovereignty and these will not be surrendered to a group of extremist Israeli leaders seeking to drag the region into a state of conflict,” said the head of Egypt’s State Information Services, Diaa Rashwan.