Hamas denies Israeli report that Qatari ceasefire deal would see leaders deported from Gaza
Israeli news website Walla reported on Wednesday that a Qatari-mediated truce to end Israel’s three-month war on Gaza would include Israeli hostages held by Hamas being released in exchange for Palestinian captives in Israeli detention.
It would include Israeli troops withdrawing from Gaza, in return for Hamas leaders leaving the territory too.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007, after it won a general election in the Palestinian territories and then fought a conflict with rival Palestinian movement Fatah.
"In principle, there is no initiative of this kind," Osama Hamdan, a senior representative of Hamas based in Lebanon, said during a press conference on Wednesday.
"The people have not left their land, let alone the resistance that defends the people. [Any] talk about the resistance leaving its land is an illusion, and the idea of disarming the resistance is naïve and does not reflect an understanding [of the reality]," said Hamdan from Beirut.
He added that Israeli media reports on the initiative aimed at misinforming an Israeli public angry at the government's failure to bring home hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.
During its surprise attack in southern Israel on 7 October, Hamas captured over 200 hostages and killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures, which it said was in response to years of Israeli blockade and aggression against Palestinians.
Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza since then has killed more than 23,300 people, mostly women and children, and devastated the enclave amid accusations of war crimes and genocide.
A Qatari, US and Egyptian-mediated truce in November saw 105 hostages freed in return for the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners – many of whom had never been charged, and all women or youths under the age of 18. Israel says there are still 137 hostages held by Hamas.
Hamdan reiterated his movement’s assertion that it will "not accept any prisoner exchange initiative unless it is based on a complete end to the aggression against the Gaza Strip".
Gaza's entire population is at risk of famine as rights groups say Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) January 11, 2024
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"Until now, there is no talk about any initiatives. We are committed to our position and presented a clear vision to the mediators, and this vision is the basis for a [potential] deal," he added.
On Sunday, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani said that the ceasefire negotiations for Gaza, albeit challenging, were ongoing. The killing of senior Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut earlier this month had complicated these talks, he added.
The assassination of al-Arouri and two other Hamas members was the first Israeli attack on the Lebanese capital since cross-border clashes between Israel and Hezbollah erupted in October.
Israel had previously threatened to kill Hamas leaders abroad, whether in Turkey, Lebanon, Qatar, or elsewhere.