If there is to be a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, it will not come at the expense of Israelis being held captive by the terror group in Gaza, Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said Monday. Speaking on Army Radio, Katz said “there will be no deal without the return of our missing and captive soldiers, but we can have a cessation of hostilities.”
Yisrael Hayom quoted senior Hamas sources as saying that Israel had made clear that if the terror group wanted an arrangement with Israel, it would have to concede on the issue of missing Israelis. The Israeli condition was communicated to Hamas by U.N. Middle East negotiator Nikolai Maldanev, as part of the arrangement Egypt has been brokering between Israel and Hamas. Hamas is believed to be holding four Israelis: the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as civilians Avram Mengistu and Hisham Shabin a-Seid.
With that, a Hamas source told the newspaper that while a deal was being negotiated, news reports in Israel that the two sides were close to an agreement were incorrect. “There is no commitment to action on either side, and certainly no schedule. There are general understandings regarding the gestures Israel will commit to.” Regarding the return of the Israeli prisoners, the Hamas source said that Israel was “adamant” that they be released, but that would likely entail Israel releasing at least some Hamas terrorists from prison.
Under the agreement, which was brokered by Egypt, Hamas commits to “act aggressively” against the firing of rockets at Israel and to cut down gradually on the riots that take place along the Gaza border fence, eventually eliminating them. On Thursday, Hamas announced that the demonstrations that have been taking place at the border fence for over a year and a half every Friday would now take place only once a month. With that, the IDF believes that Hamas’s ability to guarantee these results is limited.
Israel will commit to easing conditions for Gaza residents, including allowing more goods to enter Gaza and providing work permits to enter Israel. The area where Gazans can fish will be expanded, projects to develop energy and water resources will be inaugurated, and assistance will be provided to hospitals and other projects to benefit Gazans. Lebanese media over the weekend said that Israel was set to issue 5,000 work permits to Gazans, with another 5,000 to follow in the coming weeks.
The Security Cabinet discussed the deal at its Sunday meeting, with harsh criticism from the Goldin family, who again accused the government of trying to make a deal with Hamas without securing the release of their son and the other hostages. “My brother Hadar is not part of this deal, and his name was not mentioned in any of the discussions,” Tzur Goldin wrote in a social media post. Hadar’s parents, Leah and Simcha Goldin, said that “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu publicly declared and promised us personally that there would be no arrangement with Hamas without the return of our sons, most recently a month and a half ago. We expect him to uphold his commitment.”