Hamas says Israeli ground offensive in Rafah would destroy hostage negotiations

An Israeli ground offensive in the city of Rafah would mean the end of hostage negotiations, Hamas-run television channel Al-Aqsa reported Sunday, quoting a leadership source in Hamas.

According to Al-Aqsa TV, a Hamas leadership source said that an assault on Rafah would mean the “destruction” of negotiations that have been ongoing for weeks.

“Netanyahu is trying to evade the obligations of the exchange deal by committing a genocide and a new humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah,” Al-Aqsa quoted the Hamas source as saying.

In a statement on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it had directed the military to plan for the “evacuation of the population” from Rafah in anticipation of a ground assault on the southern Gaza city.

In an interview with ABC releasing Sunday, Netanyahu called Rafah the “last bastion” of Hamas and said Israel was “working out a detailed plan” to secure “safe passage” for civilians but offered few details.

More than one million people live in Rafah, which is the last major area of Gaza the Israeli military is yet to enter.