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Israel Gives Hostage Deal “Last Chance” Before Rafah Attack

Efforts to secure a ceasefire and a hostage deal in the ongoing Gaza conflict have intensified, with Israel and Egypt engaging in negotiations viewed as a critical juncture before a potential military offensive on Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip. The talks, held in Tel Aviv between Egyptian and Israeli representatives, were described as “very good” and focused, indicating a concerted effort to find a resolution to the escalating crisis.

According to reports, Egypt has shown willingness to apply pressure on Hamas, the Palestinian militant group governing Gaza, in order to facilitate an agreement. The discussions have seen progress across various fronts, raising hopes for a breakthrough that could avert further bloodshed and instability in the region.

Israeli officials have underscored the urgency of reaching a deal, emphasizing that any delay by Hamas, particularly its Gaza leader Yahya al-Sinwar, in agreeing to a hostage release could lead to a military offensive on Rafah. The recent mobilization of two additional reserve brigades by Israel suggests a readiness to take decisive action if necessary. Al-Sinwar, who is accused of orchestrating a deadly attack last October resulting in casualties and abductions, is believed to be hiding in tunnels beneath Rafah.

The Israeli government has made it clear that they see the current negotiations as a “last chance” before resorting to military intervention. The impending offensive on Rafah aims to target the remaining Hamas forces in the town, which shares a border with Egypt. Egypt, for its part, is eager to avoid a scenario where large numbers of Palestinians might attempt to cross the border seeking refuge, adding further urgency to the negotiation process.

Initial discussions centered on a limited agreement with Hamas, focusing on the release of select categories of hostages, such as women, the elderly, and the sick. However, Hamas rejected a US proposal to release 40 such captives, insisting on a permanent ceasefire instead. With few hostages remaining fitting the proposed categories, the scope of the negotiations remains a point of contention.

The outcome of these ongoing discussions will likely have significant ramifications for the trajectory of the conflict. Both sides are keen to avoid further escalation and civilian casualties, making the resolution of these talks crucial for restoring stability and security in the region.

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