Israel’s Offensive Pressures Hamas to Ease Ceasefire Demands

By Yoni Weiss

IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. (IDF Spokesman)

According to officials in the Middle East and the US, Israel’s nine-month offensive following Hamas’ October 7 attack has likely pressured Hamas to ease its ceasefire demands, the Associated Press reported Monday.

Over the weekend, Hamas appeared to abandon its longstanding demand that Israel commit to ending the war as part of any ceasefire deal. This unexpected shift has renewed optimism for progress in internationally mediated negotiations.

Internal communications viewed by the AP reveal messages from senior Hamas figures in Gaza urging the political leadership in Qatar, where Hamas’ top leader Ismail Haniyeh is based, to accept the ceasefire proposal from President Joe Biden. These messages, shared anonymously by a Middle Eastern official, detail Hamas’ heavy losses and dire conditions in Gaza, potentially explaining the softened stance.

The intelligence official provided the AP with a transcript of the communications in Arabic from May and June but did not disclose how the information was obtained or the raw form of the messages.

While it remains unclear if this internal pressure directly influenced Hamas’ flexibility, the messages suggest divisions within the group and a readiness among top members to quickly reach a deal, despite the possible reluctance of Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’ top official in Gaza, who has been hiding in an underground tunnel since the war began.

Two US officials, also speaking anonymously, acknowledged awareness of internal divisions within Hamas. They suggested that these divisions, the destruction in Gaza, or pressure from mediators Egypt and Qatar might have contributed to Hamas’ softened demands.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed on Sunday that military pressure, including the ongoing two-month offensive in Rafah, “is what has led Hamas to enter negotiations.”

Hamas spokesperson Jihad Taha dismissed suggestions of divisions within the group, stating, “The movement’s position is unified and is crystallized through the organizational framework of the leadership.”

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