Israel announced the end of the brief humanitarian ceasefire after two IDF soldiers were killed and one officer was feared kidnapped, but Hamas initiated a PR campaign to convince the world the incident occurred before the ceasefire ever began – and refused to confirm that it kidnapped 2nd Lieut. Hadar Goldin.
Hamas began its multimedia campaign around noon, meant to provide the Palestinian version of the incident which, according to the IDF occurred after the ceasefire came into effect at 8 am.
All of Hamas' spokespersons, including some senior leaders abroad, have been deployed to publicly pronounce the Gaza group's narrative, focusing on two main messages: first, that the incident occurred at 7 am, an hour before the start of the UN-sponsored ceasefire, thus legitimizing the action; second, that they neither confirm nor deny the suspicion they have kidnapped an IDF soldier.
Soot clouds over Rafah (Reuters)
Izzat al-Risheq, a senior Hamas leader and close associate of Khaled Mashal, explained in meticulous detail how Israel broke the humanitarian ceasefire and that it was responsible for its failure. "Our responsibility to the lull is conditional on the enemy's responsibility for the truce."
Hamas officials also tried to broadcast that its operations were continuing as normal. Spokespersons for the terror organization said Hamas was still interested in going to Cairo to begin talks of a ceasefire. Osama Hamdan, the group's top representative in Lebanon, said: "We are ready to arrive at the ceasefire talks tonight or tomorrow morning."
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority continues to maintain an air of optimism and believes that it is possible to salvage the talks. A senior source in PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Office said that a Palestinian delegation will fly to Cairo on Saturday, "regardless of circumstances."
Hamas' aim since the beginning of the operation – to arrive in Cairo with a strong hand for negotiations in the form of a kidnapped soldier – may well have been reached, which is why they suddenly seem interested in the Egyptian mediation efforts.
Hamas believes the Israeli response to a kidnapping will be severe and are prepared for the possibility, even at the price of hundreds more casualties in Gaza. The timetable for Hamas for reaching a lasting ceasefire has now become flexible – as long as the kidnapped solder remains in their hands until they arrive in Cairo.
Roi Kais contributed to this report.