The IDF is preparing for the possibility of a full-scale military operation in Gaza should efforts to reach a ceasefire deal with Hamas fall through, Army Radio reported Sunday. According to the report, the IDF is prepared for both outcomes, with the estimated chances of either a deal or a conflict at 50/50.
On Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman denied his involvement in any effort to reach a ceasefire, insisting that unless there is some form of progress in terms of the Israeli hostages being held by Hamas, there will be no deal.
“I am not involved with the ceasefire, I don’t believe in the ceasefire,” said Liberman, adding that “we need to bring Hamas to the recognition of the fact that if they want to make any kind of progress, the first issue is the POWs.”
Despite Liberman’s denial, Israel and Hamas have been engaged in a series of talks mediated by Egypt, aimed at reaching a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. On Thursday, the London-based Al-Hayat Arabic language daily reported that a deal between Israel and Hamas is nearly completed and that it is expected to be announced this week. According to that report, the two sides reached an agreement regarding a prisoner’s exchange, with Israel agreeing to free Palestinians released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal, who were taken back into custody in 2014 after Hamas abducted and murdered three Israeli teenagers. In return, Hamas is set to release the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in Gaza in 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians being held by Hamas – Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
While Al-Hayat reported that the prisoner exchange will be included in the deal, the Lebanese based Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Monday, that the talks between the sides were at a standstill following Israel’s insistence on release of the prisoners held by Hamas.