Truce Deal Is Faltering As Hamas Wants A Who's Who Of Murderers Released

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Feb 02, 2024 - 06:57 PM

Update(1357ET): This week has seen several false starts when it comes to announcing an Israel-Hamas truce and new prisoner exchange deal, as we reported yesterday. Qatar on Thursday said Hamas has issued 'positive confirmation' that it's seriously contemplating the deal. It would theoretically result in several rounds of hostage/prisoner exchanges, with the Israeli side ultimately wanting to see all captives freed from Gaza by the end of the process, which would happen over a 2-month ceasefire period. 

While both sides appear to agree that major concessions will have to be made on the swap front, the big hold-up centers on precisely who Hamas is trying to spring from Israeli prisons. Israeli officials complain that Hamas is seeking the release of several multi-murderers. A top Hamas official has been cited in Israeli media as saying the following

He mentioned two by name, including Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader seen as a unifying figure. Barghouti was arrested by Israel in 2002 and is serving five life terms for planning three terror attacks that killed five Israelis during the Second Intifada.

In addition to Barghouti, Hamdan named Ahmad Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, as well as Hamas prisoners and those from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. Saadat is serving a 30-year sentence for his role in the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi.

And here is a key line from a breaking Times of Israel report that strongly suggests negotiations are looking much bleaker than previously reported: 

Top Hamas rep says ‘there is no way’ terror group will accept a non-permanent ceasefire; Israeli official puts odds of reaching deal at ‘no more than 50/50’

Hamas has demanded a full IDF withdrawal of ground forces from the Strip, but at the same time Defense Minister Gallant has said victory over Khan Younis is imminent, and that the military will target the far southern city of Rafah next. Crucially, PM Netanyahu has vowed to not stop the operation until completely eradicating Hamas. Simultaneously there have been reports of a reemerging Hamas presence in the north.

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Sky News Arabia is reporting Friday morning that major US strikes against Iran-aligned targets may begin within hours, while NBC is once again reporting that Biden's counterattack plan in response to the killing of three Americans last weekend is expected to unfold over days and possibly even weeks.

The speculation over the scope of the expected attacks has grown with each passing day that there are no strikes. An overnight Israeli attack on parts of Damascus triggered initial speculation it could have been the start of the US operation, but it appeared another Israeli 'one-off' hit on Syria.

Illustrative: prior Israeli airstrikes on Damascus

A southern district of the Syrian capital was targeted, reportedly resulting in the death of an Iranian Revolutionary Guards adviser. Recent weeks have seen an uptick in these Israeli operation which have as their aim the assassination of IRGC commanders in Syria.

"The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the strike hit a farm housing members of Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group and other Iran-backed factions," Associated Press reported.

"It said the strike killed seven people, including four Syrians, one of whom was the bodyguard of a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. It did not give the nationalities of the others," the report added. State media sources additionally described:

"At approximately 4:20 a.m. today, the Israeli enemy launched an air aggression from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting a number of points south of Damascus. Our air defense media responded to the aggression’s missiles and shot down some of them, where the losses were limited to material losses."

The deadly Israeli attack is a sign of what's imminently to come with the larger, broader US operation expected to take place across parts of Syria and Iraq. 

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi issued a warning in response Friday, saying Tehran is ready to "respond strongly" to anyone trying to bully Iran. "We will not start any war, but if anyone wants to bully us they will receive a strong response," he said in a televised speech.

"Before, when they (the Americans) wanted to talk to us, they said the military option is on the table. Now they say they have no intention of a conflict with Iran,” Raisi added. "The Islamic Republic’s military power in the region is not and never has been a threat."

There have meanwhile been widespread reports saying Iran has already pulled its senior officers out of Iran. This has led some Congressional leaders to criticize the Biden administration's telegraphing the strikes too much, saying the time delay and media reports have allowed Iran and their proxies to prepare. Republican Congressman from Florida Mike Walz said the extent of foreknowledge and wait time makes the whole operation "deliberately unserious"

US defense officials have repeatedly said the weather is a major determining factor as far as the timing of the coming strikes...

In a Thursday briefing, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was asked whether the US has telegraphed its response too much to the point of essentially allowing leaders to return to Iran. He essentially dodged the question, saying, "We will have a multi-tiered response."

In Iraq, the AFP is reporting Friday that the pro-Iran Al-Nujaba movement and affiliated militias are vowing to keep up attacks on US troops, no matter Washington's military response in the region.