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Hamas Rejects Israeli Ceasefire Proposal Amidst Escalating Tensions 

Israel has expressed eagerness for a prisoners-for-hostages deal but is hesitant to cease military operations before Rafah invasion.

Smoke rises during an Israeli ground operation in Khan Younis, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from a tent camp sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip March 14, 2024. REUTERS/Bassam Masoud

Hamas has firmly rejected an Israeli ceasefire proposal, denouncing it as inadequate in meeting the demands of Palestinian factions. 

The announcement was made by Hamas on Tuesday, following talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

According to Hamas officials, the proposed ceasefire, described as “intransigent,” failed to address key issues raised by the Palestinian side. 

Despite this rejection, Hamas stated that it would review the proposal further before delivering its response to the mediators.

The rejection comes amidst escalating tensions, with reports indicating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu setting a date for a potential invasion of Rafah, Gaza’s last refuge for displaced Palestinians.

 The Israeli proposal was presented during talks in Cairo, which also involved Qatari and Egyptian mediators, as well as CIA Director William Burns representing the United States.

Senior Hamas official Ali Baraka emphasized the rejection of the Israeli proposals, affirming the decision following a meeting of the Hamas politburo. 

Another Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, echoed the sentiment, stating that no progress had been made in the negotiations, citing the unchanged position of Israel.

Israel, on its part, expressed eagerness to secure a prisoners-for-hostages deal, seeking the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. 

However, Israeli authorities reiterated their stance on the military offensive, indicating reluctance to cease operations until an invasion of Rafah is conducted.

Hamas has outlined its demands for any agreement, including an end to Israeli military offensive, withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and the repatriation of displaced Palestinians to their homes. 

Rafah, described as the last stronghold for both civilians and Hamas combat units, remains a focal point in the negotiations.

The situation in Rafah has drawn international concern, with over one million civilians facing dire conditions amidst relentless Israeli bombardments.

 Foreign governments and organizations have warned against the potential consequences of an Israeli invasion, urging restraint to prevent further bloodshed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed the government’s commitment to achieving its objectives, emphasizing the release of hostages and the neutralization of Hamas forces in Rafah. 

“We are constantly working to achieve our goals, first and foremost the release of all our hostages and achieving a complete victory over Hamas.

“This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen – there is a date.” 

However, no specific timeline was provided for the planned invasion.

Negotiations between Israel and Hamas have been ongoing since October, with 133 hostages still held by Hamas out of the 253 initially seized.

Chioma Kalu

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