Hostage Talks Hit Wall: Hamas Refuses to Name Survivors as Israel Warns Hamas Leader Wants Violence During Ramadan

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discusses Hamas leader Sinwar in comments to press. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Ariel Hermoni.

Hamas has refused to provide a list of surviving Israeli hostages without a “big price”, thereby undercutting negotiations for a hostage release in exchange for a temporary ceasefire and Palestinian prisoners. Israel reportedly chose not to attend talks in Cairo on Sunday in response to the Hamas position. With that as background, a senior Israeli official warned Ynet that Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar wants ceasefire talks to fail so there will be violence during the Muslim religious month of Ramadan, which begins next week.

The Hamas stance on surviving hostages was communicated to the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed news group in the United Kingdom. In the report, which was translated from Arabic by Google, a Hamas leader said that they would not give Israel any details on remaining hostages—including which remain alive—without a “big price”. This reply in Arabic contrasted with the claim in English to the BBC, in which a Hamas official alleged it was impossible to know who remains alive of the hostages due to the ongoing fighting.

Hamas infamously reneged on the prior hostage release deal by failing to release all women and children hostages as promised, which the Ynet article noted when reporting on Israel’s refusal to continue talks without hostage names.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has insisted on more clarity on the hostages before agreeing to a deal. “We are making a relentless effort to return all of our hostages,” said Netanyahu in comments on Thursday translated from Hebrew by Israel. “Citizens of Israel, this is a sacred goal; we are working on it around the clock. I demand to know in advance the names of all the hostages who will be included in the outline.”

Meanwhile, the pressure for a temporary ceasefire deal continues. United States President Kamala Harris on Sunday started a speech on the American civil rights movement by pivoting to Gaza and calling for an “immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table.”

“Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal,” said Harris in her speech, which was posted to the White House website. “Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”

Reportedly one Hamas demand that is a nonstarter for Israel is an end to the current war—rather than a temporary ceasefire. Netanyahu on Thursday appeared to reference a full ceasefire while implying such an approach would effectively be national suicide. “We will not capitulate in the face of Hamas’s delusional demands. We will not do this because if we capitulate, we will simply not be here,” said Netanyahu. “But as of today, thanks to the combination of military pressure and tough negotiations, we have succeeded in returning alive 112 of our hostages. We are determined to return them all. With or without an outline [of which hostages will be included], we will fight until total victory.”

Netanyahu isn’t alone in this determination. Benny Gantz, a political rival to Netanyahu who joined the emergency government after the October 7 terror massacre, posted to X (formerly Twittter) on Friday in a post translated from Hebrew by Google: “We don’t stop on our journey—until we bring them home. Until we win.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, March 3, 2024)

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