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Israel issued ultimatum to Hamas

Israel issued ultimatum to Hamas Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz (photo: Getty Images)

Israeli officials have warned the terrorist group Hamas of an impending large-scale military operation in the city of Rafah if the militants do not agree to a deal to release some of the 133 hostages still held, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz has stated that if an agreement on the hostage exchange is reached, Tel Aviv will suspend the operation. Meanwhile, the IDF continues its preparations for the operation, and Egypt has renewed efforts to release the hostages after several weeks of seeming stalemate.

"The release of the hostages is a deep priority for us. If there is an option to make a deal, we will do it," Katz said, emphasizing that this will not affect the overall goal of the war, which is the destruction of Hamas.

He spoke after an Egyptian delegation was in Israel on Friday for talks with Israel on the possibility of reaching a new agreement.

Hamas is considering Israel's proposal

Hamas stated that it received an official response from Israel on Saturday to its latest ceasefire proposal and will study it before providing its response.

The proposal involves the possibility of releasing between 20 and 40 hostages - women, elderly individuals, and informed persons - in exchange for a pause in the war, which previously lasted for six weeks. It is expected that Israel will also release Palestinian prisoners and terrorists held in its prisons.

Hamas insists on a permanent cessation of hostilities. Mediators have been trying to advance this issue without an immediate resolution, as Israel has insisted that Hamas can no longer remain in the Gaza Strip and must end its military operation aimed at its destruction.

On Friday, Israeli officials told their Egyptian counterparts that Israel was ready to give negotiations on the release of hostages a last chance to reach an agreement with Hamas before continuing the invasion of Rafah.

"Israel told Egypt that it is serious about preparations for the operation in Rafah and that it will not let Hamas drag its feet," Axios quoted one Israeli official as saying.

Qatar is ready to help

In an unusual move, Qatar's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Majed Al Ansari, gave an interview to the Israeli channel KAN News. Qatar has also been working with Egypt to reach an agreement.

"Every day there is a delay in reaching a deal, more lives are lost, and the lives of the hostages are put at risk. Both Israel and Hamas can do more to reach a deal now," he said, adding that there are narrow political considerations that are hindering this process.

"We have voiced our frustration with the commitment level of both sides. We are reassessing our role as mediators as a result of our feelings towards the seriousness of both sides and getting a deal. We believe that a lot more can be done from both sides and that we are doing all that we can right now, and we need more pressure on both sides," he said.

He also expressed hope that the Israeli operation in Rafah would impact the negotiation process and that escalation on the ground also threaten the hostages.

On April 29-30, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Saudi Arabia to meet with regional partners and discuss efforts to cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and release Israeli hostages.

During this trip, there are no plans for Blinken to visit Israel.

Negotiations on the release of hostages

During the invasion on October 7th, Hamas took 250 people hostage.

Following the previous round of negotiations last fall, the terrorists released about 120 hostages, and Israel released a group of Palestinian prisoners.

The US, Egypt, and Qatar have proposed a new peace plan to resolve the crisis in the Middle East. It includes the release of hostages, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and an end to the war in the Gaza Strip.

Israel had previously approved a date for the entry of IDF forces into Rafah. Without an operation in this city, victory in the war against Hamas is impossible.