Hamas says Israeli PM creating 'obstacles' to Gaza talks

Hamas says Israeli PM creating 'obstacles' to Gaza talks
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday that Israel's military actions in Gaza could push mediated ceasefire talks back to square one.
3 min read
Ismail Haniyah (C), Head of the Political Bureau of Hamas in Istanbul on January 2, 2012. [Getty]

The Palestinian group Hamas on Monday accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of obstructing negotiations for a truce and hostage release in Gaza as mediators again push for a deal.

The devastating war in the Palestinian territory has raged for nine months, but back-and-forth negotiations, which have lasted nearly as long, have failed to bring it to an end.

In a statement, Hamas said the Israeli prime minister "continues to place more obstacles in front of the negotiations".

The group accused Netanyahu of escalating "his aggression and crimes against our people" in what it said were "attempts to forcibly displace them in order to thwart all efforts to reach an agreement".

Hamas said in a separate statement that its Qatar-based political leader Ismail Haniyeh said he had made "urgent contact" with mediators over events in Gaza.

It said Haniyeh had warned that the "catastrophic consequences of what is happening in Gaza," could "reset the negotiation process to square one".

As Israeli attacks raged in Gaza City on Monday, the Israeli military expanded its evacuation order in the territory's north, causing thousands of Palestinians to flee.

Netanyahu's office reiterated in a statement on Sunday that "any deal will allow Israel to return (to Gaza) and fight until all the goals of the war are achieved".

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With the exception of a one-week truce in November, during which 80 Israeli hostages were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, talks have repeatedly foundered over differences between the parties.

Mediators Egypt and Qatar were due to host new meetings this week, according to officials.

A source with knowledge of the talks told news agency AFP on Monday that US and Israeli intelligence chiefs would travel to Doha for negotiations.

CIA director William Burns and the head of Israel's Mossad David Barnea "are travelling to Doha on Wednesday", the source said adding they would meet with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani.

Meanwhile, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that senior US officials are in Cairo for talks to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but gaps still remain between the two sides.

Kirby said CIA Director Bill Burns and US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk were in Egypt, meeting with their Egyptian, Israeli and Jordanian counterparts, adding that there will be "follow-on discussions" in the next few days.

Ahead of the new talks, Hamas signalled it would drop its insistence on a "complete" ceasefire, a demand Israel has repeatedly rejected.

In its statement on Monday, the group said it had shown "flexibility and positivity to facilitate reaching an agreement" and urged mediators to end what it called "Netanyahu's tricks and crimes".