Israel: Hamas Accepted a ‘Softened’ Egyptian Cease-Fire Plan, Not Ours 

On Monday, Hamas announced it had accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal for a cease-fire to stop the seven-month-long war in Gaza with Israel, hours after Israel ordered around 100,000 Palestinians to start evacuating from Rafah, a southern city, and signaled a long-promised ground invasion there could be forthcoming.

An official in Israel says Hamas approved a “softened” proposal from Egypt that wasn’t acceptable and not approved by Israel, which continued airstrikes on the Hamas terrorist’s Rarah hideouts.

“This would appear to be a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal,” said the Israeli official, speaking on a condition of anonymity.

Channel 12 in Israel quotes officials in Israel saying Israel’s negotiating team has just received a response from Hamas from the mediators.

The report says Israel is now carefully considering the response by Hamas and will issue orderly comments later in the evening.

Israeli officials have already said that “this is not the same proposal” for a deal Egypt and Israel agreed upon ten days ago, which has served as the basis for the indirect negotiations since then.

“All kinds of clauses” have been added, according to the report.

These newly added clauses, along with additional issues, relate to the key questions of how, when, and if the war would end and what type of guarantees are being offered to that end.

The report noted that Hamas had been increasing and toughening its demands recently and demanding the end of the war during the first 40-day phase of the deal instead of the second or third phases.

For its part, Israel has repeatedly rejected ending the war as part of any hostage deal, insisting instead it will resume fighting once the agreement is in place, in conformance with its two war goals — destroying Hamas’s governance and military capacities and returning the hostages.

Earlier, Hamas’s chief, Ismail Haniyeh, issued a brief statement informing Egyptian and Qatari mediators that the group accepted their proposal for a cease-fire. The statement didn’t provide any details of the accord.

There hasn’t been a successful agreement on a Gaza cease-fire since a week-long pause in fighting in November. The announcement of a deal by Hamas came hours after Israel ordered the evacuation of parts of Rafah, a city on the southern edge of Gaza that has been serving as a sanctuary for about half of the 2.3 million residents in Gaza.

Recently, Hamas and Egyptian officials have said the cease-fire would take place in stages during which Hamas would release hostages it is holding in exchange for pullbacks of Israeli troops from Gaza.

It remains unclear whether the deal will meet the critical demand of Hamas of bringing an end to the war with a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops.

In a statement, Hamas said Haniyeh had delivered the news via a phone call with Egypt’s intelligence minister and the prime minister of Qatar. After the statement’s release, Palestinians cheered in the sprawling Rafah tent camps, hoping the deal meant the avoidance of an Israeli attack.

Israel’s allies said Israel shouldn’t attack Rafah

The closest allies of Israel, including the U.S., have frequently said Israel shouldn’t attack Rafah. The imminent operation has raised an alarm globally over the fate of about 1.4 million Palestinians sheltering there.

Aid agencies continue to warn an offensive will worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and bring an onslaught of more civilian deaths in an Israeli campaign that, in almost seven months, has devastated the territory and killed 34,000 people.

Monday, President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and repeated U.S. concerns about invading Rafah. President Biden said a cease-fire with Hamas is the most effective way to protect Israeli hostages that are being held in Gaza, said a National Security Council spokesperson speaking anonymously to discuss the call before the release of an official White House statement.

Key mediators Qatar and Hamas said invading Rafah would derail efforts by global mediators to broker a cease-fire. Days prior, Hamas had been discussing a proposal backed by the United States that reportedly raised the possibility of the end of war and withdrawal of IDF troops in exchange for the release of all hostages held by the terrorist group. Officials in Israel have rejected the trade and vow to continue with their campaign until Hamas is destroyed. 

On Monday, Netanyahu said seizing Rafah, which Israel claims is the last critical Hamas stronghold in Gaza, was essential to ensuring terrorists cannot build their military capabilities back up and repeat the October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the months-long war.