Haniyeh Signals Flexibility in Talks While Maintaining Readiness for Continued War

By Yoni Weiss

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh speaks in a prerecorded message shown on a screen during a press event for Al Quds International Institution, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh announced on Wednesday that the Islamist terror group is demonstrating flexibility in ongoing negotiations with Israel regarding the Gaza war. Despite this, Haniyeh emphasized their preparedness to continue the fight. In a speech, he also urged Palestinians to march to Al-Aqsa Mosque on March 10, the first day of Ramadan, adding complexity to the indirect truce talks. Israel had earlier agreed to permit Ramadan prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque but imposed security-related limits, potentially setting the stage for clashes if large Palestinian crowds assemble.

The call for flexibility in negotiations comes amid efforts to reach a truce deal before the beginning of Ramadan. President Joe Biden expressed optimism on Monday, stating his hope for a Gaza ceasefire agreement by March 4. Negotiations are taking place in Qatar, where discussions also focus on the release of hostages held by Hamas. Haniyeh’s call for Palestinian unity and increased support echoes in the context of these talks, raising the stakes for a potential resolution.

In his address, Haniyeh also appealed to the self-styled Axis of Resistance, consisting of Iran’s allies like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthis, and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, along with Arab states. He urged them to enhance their support for the people of Gaza.

Additionally, Haniyeh highlighted what Palestinians perceive as Israel’s deliberate policy to deny them food, describing it as a “starvation conspiracy.” Israel contends that its blockade on Gaza is crucial to counter Hamas, viewing the group as an existential threat since their Oct. 7 attacks.

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