Hamas Issues Demands for Gaza Ceasefire as Israel Prepares for Possible Escalation
Leaders of the Gaza-based terror group Hamas on Monday announced terms for the cessation of rocket fire into Israel, which are unlikely to be met by the Israeli government raising the specter of an all out war against Hamas, analysts said.
Over the past weeks, since the kidnapping and brutal murder if three Israeli teens, Hamas has significantly escalated rocket attacks against Israel with over 240 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.
In a message posted on the group’s qassam.ps website, Osama Hamdan, head of Hamas’ foreign relations, was quoted announcing that “his movement will not accept any ceasefire in light of the continued siege on Gaza.”
Additionally, a senior Hamas official told The Times of Israel that the group does not accept the idea that “quiet will be answered with quiet” in the Gaza Strip, saying that if Israel wants peace in the South it must release all the prisoners freed in exchange for Gilad Shalit who were recently re-arrested following the abduction of the three Israeli teens.
Earlier reports indicated that Israel had attempted to mediate a ceasefire through Egyptian officials, an effort which Israeli officials now believe to be headed nowhere.
Hamas, on its part, denied that the discussions ever took place.
According to the Hamas website, “Hamdan said that there were no regional attempts to reach a ceasefire between Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupation, saying that Egypt did not intervene so far to broker a new calm or to stabilize the old one.”
Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported that Israel is now preparing for a possible escalation that could result in a large-scale IDF operation in Gaza. Cabinet ministers are meeting in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon to assess the situation.
On Hamas’s demands, Omri Ceren of the advocacy group The Israel Project said, “Now they’re refusing to stop the rocket barrages until Israel lifts all restrictions on bringing materials into Gaza. The odds of that happening are exactly zero percent. This was a condition meant to give them a pretext for continued rocket attacks.”
Ceren said, “It’s becoming fairly clear that Hamas thinks it’s their interest to escalate. Militarily those moves risks a full-blown war with the Israelis. Diplomatically they’re a slap in the face to diplomats who suggested that the Palestinian unity govt should be supported as a potentially moderating influence.”
The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment on the demands.