Israel will not make deal with Hamas without return of hostages

The security cabinet discussed the outline of a long-term arrangement in its Sunday meeting.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A Hamas official says Israel will not sign onto a large-scope ceasefire arrangement unless IDF soldiers’ bodies and live civilian citizens are returned as part of the agreement, Israel Hayom reported on Monday.

“The message that Israel delivered was firm,” the senior official told the Israeli daily. “Long-term projects that the U.N. and Qatar have undertaken to finance and Hamas has agreed to carry out will not be permitted.”

Hamas has been holding two bodies of soldiers from Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. The terror group is also holding two mentally ill civilians who crossed into Gaza on their own in 2014 and 2015 respectively, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. They are considered still alive.

The ventures under discussion include rebuilding landline phone, water and sewage infrastructure and the laying of new infrastructure for power lines in public buildings.

A senior Israeli source confirmed to the paper that Hamas was demanding these civilian projects and had promised international donors “an oversight mechanism to ensure that the money would not be used for terrorist purposes.”

But the Hamas official said, “The talk out of Israel that there is progress in the arrangement with Gaza is not correct.”

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“There is no binding agreement, and there is certainly no timetable. There are general understandings that have been conveyed with the help of middlemen that Israel will allow a series of short-term easements such as fuel deliveries, increasing the basic products that can be brought into the Gaza Strip under strict supervision and in limited quantities,” he said.

Israel’s security cabinet discussed the theoretical outlines of an arrangement with the Gazan terrorist organization at its Sunday meeting that contained other gestures as well, according to a Channel 12 news report.

These included letting more Gazans enter Israel to work, expanding the fishing zone from the current 14 nautical miles, and construction of a natural gas pipeline.

Israel’s humanitarian gestures would go into effect if Hamas stopped launching rocket attacks and significantly decreased the violence at the Friday border protests it has produced since March 2018.

Hamas announced last week that beginning in March 2020 it would only hold riots once a month and on “national occasions.”

The indirect discussions between Hamas and Israel have been attacked by the Palestinian Authority and other factions as a means to ensure a permanent split between the Palestinians, with blame cast on both sides.

The Jerusalem Post quoted PLO Executive Committee member Azzam al-Ahmed, who said that the point of the “cooperation” was “to solidify divisions among the Palestinians and geographically and legally separate the Gaza Strip from Palestine.”

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Others said that Hamas wanted the talks because a long-term arrangement would consolidate its rule over the coastal enclave.