Israel considers Gaza ceasefire under pressure from hostages’ families | International

The dual objective of definitively defeating Hamas and at the same time freeing the hostages captured in Israel clashes with the harsh reality of a conflict in Gaza which has already lasted more than 100 days without any sign of “total military victory”, as the claim the first. Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Former armed forces chief Gadi Eisenkot, a member of the select cabinet who directs war strategy and a former general who lost a son fighting in the Gaza Strip a month ago, warned that releasing the kidnapped people would not would be possible only through negotiation, after the cessation of hostilities. In this climate of uncertainty over the conflict in the Jewish State, relatives of more than a hundred captives in the Palestinian enclave have stepped up their mobilizations to demand that the government give priority to the release of hostages over others. objectives of the war. . To do this, they camped outside Netanyahu’s private residences in Jerusalem and on the Mediterranean coast. Netanyahu received representatives of the Forum of Relatives of Hostages and Missing Persons on Monday and announced that he was considering a deal on the kidnapped people, without offering them further details.

Sources cited by Reuters assured this Wednesday that Israel and Hamas have made progress, after several weeks of negotiations via Egyptian and Qatari mediators, to establish a 30-day ceasefire. An Israeli government spokesperson subsequently denied the rapprochement of positions, while the Palestinian Islamist organization remained silent. The exchange of proposals between the two parties has not stopped in recent days, in a so-called bargaining exercise.

Egyptian military intelligence on Tuesday revealed a plan for an Israeli ceasefire lasting up to 60 days to exchange groups of abductees for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in several phases. Hamas rejected this plan out of hand, because it requires as a precondition that Israel commit to ending the war and withdrawing from the Palestinian strip before entering into any type of agreement. Netanyahu also opposed Monday another offer from Palestinian Islamists: a 90-day ceasefire and a gradual exchange of hostages for prisoners.

“The important thing is that Netanyahu received a delegation of the families of the hostages, which was not common during the war, and that there are signs that a possible agreement is being negotiated. “We are seeing the first stages of talks, as happened before the departure of more than a hundred kidnapped people in November,” Yair Moses, a 52-year-old computer engineer, said Tuesday evening in the temporary camp set up at the central Gaza Street in Jerusalem, in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. “I hope this time everything goes well,” he mused after the failures of previous initiatives negotiated by Qatar and Egypt, coordinated with Israel through the United States.

Yair Moses, Tuesday, at the camp for relatives of the hostages kidnapped in Gaza set up in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. He holds a sign bearing the image of his father, Gadi Moses, 79, kidnapped on October 7 at Kibbutz Nir Oz.JCS

Dozens of family members and volunteers were busy preparing a large tent that would serve as a meeting room and collective kitchen, while this Forum spokesperson held a poster with the image of his father, Gadi Moses , 79, kidnapped on October 7 from Kibbutz Nir Oz, a collective farm in the area bordering the strip. “I hope he can be one of the first to be released, given his age,” his son said. There has been no news of him since December 14, when he was shown alive in a video released by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. “We believe that his return home and that of the rest of the hostages should be the top priority,” he concluded, “since Israeli civil society is with us.”

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While Israel debates a ceasefire, the war accelerates in Gaza with the largest offensive recorded in a month in the south of the enclave. The director of the United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, Thomas White, reported that an attack Wednesday afternoon on one of its centers in Khan Younis, where hundreds of people were sheltering displaced by the war, caused several deaths. at least nine people and 75 injured. “Two tank shells hit a building,” detailed White, who feared there would be “a large number of casualties.” The Israeli army continues to bombard the main city in southern Gaza and has ordered the evacuation of some areas where it says Hamas leaders are hiding.

Order to evacuate civilians

As of midday on Wednesday, Gaza’s health ministry recorded 210 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll since the start of the conflict to 25,700. Israeli forces have also cut off access to the region’s main hospitals and closed the main evacuation route to IDP camps in Rafah, on the border with Egypt. According to the UN, the Israeli army ordered the evacuation of several areas of Khan Younis, where some 88,000 inhabitants live and where some 425,000 displaced people have settled, and where the main health centers are still operational. On the outskirts of the Gaza Strip, the army has already demolished with explosives 1,100 buildings out of the 2,800 it plans to demolish to create a security zone without buildings on the border, according to a military spokesperson said. this Wednesday. The same source brings the number of Hamas militiamen killed in combat since the start of the war to nearly 10,000.

The plans for a temporary cessation of hostilities managed by Israel and Hamas coincide in establishing that, in a first phase, minors, women, the chronically ill and civilian hostages held by Hamas and other Islamic militias will be released. of both parties, and the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners awaiting determination. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry stressed that these are “serious negotiations”, in which outstanding issues still require intense diplomatic efforts. “We are receiving a constant stream of rebuttals from both sides,” said a spokesperson in Doha.

Brett McGurk, White House Middle East adviser, who participated in the first hostage-for-prisoner exchange deal two months ago, is in Egypt for a mediation tour of several countries in the region . One of President Joe Biden’s spokespeople said in Washington on Tuesday that McGurk was exploring the possibility of a new hostage deal “that will require a humanitarian pause of some duration,” without specifying exactly how long or even consider that current contacts reach the “level of negotiations”. The Wall Street JournalHe in turn reports that Hamas claims to be willing to discuss an agreement. Israeli intelligence estimates that the militia and its allies are holding more than 130 hostages in Gaza, while specifying that more than twenty of them died in captivity, without specifying whether this was due to illness or Israeli attacks.

The wave of protests by relatives of those kidnapped has been concentrated since the start of the conflict on the so-called Hostages Square, opposite the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where periodic mass demonstrations have been called. Its scope of action has broadened. Dozens of people were camped Saturday around Netanyahu’s summer and weekend residence in the coastal city of Caesarea. “The families have had enough, we demand an agreement immediately,” they said in a statement in which they demanded early elections before the Prime Minister, who seems determined to prolong the war, through extreme military pressure, for political reasons. convenience.

Additionally, on Sunday evening, the protest moved to Netanyahu’s private home on Gaza Street in Jerusalem, transformed into a de facto official residence due to rehabilitation work on the traditional home of prime ministers in Israel nearby. Balfour Street. Several members of the Forum of Relatives of Hostages and Missing Persons also burst into a Knesset session on Monday after breaking the security cordon of the Legislative Chamber to demand their release, before being expelled from the parliamentary premises by guards of security. With banners with the slogan Hurry up, Hundreds of women blocked the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Wednesday to protest the delay in reaching a ceasefire that would allow the hostages to leave Gaza.

“The Surrender of Israel”

Faced with the rise in mobilizations in the media, Netanyahu decided to receive a delegation from the families forum on Monday. He assured them that there was “no real proposal from Hamas” behind their ceasefire plan, which he defined as a “surrender of Israel.” Finally, the Prime Minister announced to the relatives of the kidnapped people that he had his own proposal, which he did not specify. As was later revealed on social media, the plan would consider a ceasefire of up to 60 days with the exchange of hostages for prisoners, as revealed by Axios informative digital portal.

On Monday evening, demonstrators sprayed red water on Netanyahu’s private residence on Gaza Street, protected by a large police deployment and dotted with fences and barricades that cut off this busy artery in central Jerusalem. As the storm of rain and cold sweeps the Middle East, relatives of the hostages warn that they will not break camp until the commitment to free the captives is firm.

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