May 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Hamas Must Strike Deal Within Week or Rafah Ground Offensive Will Begin, Israel Signals

May 3, 2024 | Flash Brief

Hamas Must Strike Deal Within Week or Rafah Ground Offensive Will Begin, Israel Signals

Latest Developments

Hamas must agree to the latest ceasefire and hostage proposal within the week, or Israel will go ahead with a ground operation, Egyptian officials involved in ongoing negotiations said on May 2. The current proposal — drafted by the United States and Egypt and accepted by Israel — is awaiting approval from Hamas’s Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar.

Hamas said on May 3 that it is sending a delegation to Egypt to review the deal “as soon as possible” and is expected to arrive in Cairo on May 4. CIA director Bill Burns, who is leading Washington’s effort, has already arrived. According to The Washington Post, Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh told Egyptian Intelligence Minister Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel that the deliberations were moving forward with a “positive spirit.” Hamas is demanding that Israel fully withdraw from Gaza and permanently end the war. During his most recent visit to the region on May 1, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the “only reason that [this ceasefire] wouldn’t be achieved is because of Hamas.”

Expert Analysis

“Negotiations have focused on a short-term and transactional deal in which Israel allows Gaza relief in return for Hamas’s release of hostages. But Hamas is not interested in a band-aid solution. It wants to be back in power. Israel will never grant the terrorist group its wish, and therefore, the gap has always been unbridgeable and war inevitable.” Hussain Abdul-Hussain, FDD Research Fellow

“U.S. pressure against an Israeli operation in Rafah has undermined the Jewish state’s leverage over the terrorist group. So long as Hamas feels safe in its final stronghold, it will not feel pressured to negotiate in good faith. Beyond negotiations, failing to eliminate Hamas in Rafah would leave Israelis at risk of suffering repeats of the October 7 attack.” — David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Israel Offers Concessions in Latest Deal

The latest deal reportedly includes a three-stage process that includes an immediate 40-day pause in fighting. During this period, Hamas will release up to 33 hostages, while Israel will free roughly 900 Palestinian prisoners. During the first phase, negotiations will continue for an extended pause that could last from six weeks to a year. Negotiators expect that further talks will lead to a ceasefire lasting up to a year or a permanent end to the conflict. Axios reported that some Israeli concessions include allowing Gazan civilians to return to northern Gaza and withdrawing Israeli troops from the central corridor dividing northern and southern Gaza.

Netanyahu Promises Rafah Operation

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a ground operation in Rafah will happen regardless of whether a deal is reached. “The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question,” Netanyahu said. “We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate Hamas’ battalions there — with or without a deal, to achieve total victory.” After evacuating the more than 1 million civilians who are sheltering in Rafah, Israeli forces plan to move in, targeting hotspots where they believe Hamas is holding Israeli hostages and where four intact Hamas battalions remain.

Hamas Rejects Previous Proposals

Most recently, Hamas rejected a proposal on April 13, claiming that it could release only 20 “humanitarian” hostages, defined as women, children, the elderly, and the infirm. It also demanded that Israel release 30 Palestinian prisoners for every hostage. The terrorist group previously turned down ceasefire proposals in December, January, February, March, and early April — in which Israel agreed to turn over 700 Palestinian prisoners for 40 Israeli civilian hostages.

Lacking Hostage Deal, Blinken Continues to Stall Israeli Ground Operation in Rafah,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Develops Plan for Rafah Evacuation,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Obstructs Hostage Negotiations,” FDD Flash Brief


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