The death toll in Gaza due to Israeli bombings and raids is now around 20,000, of which more than 10,000 are believed to be women and minors, including several thousand children. But it took the death of three half-naked Israeli Hamas hostages – to show that they were unarmed – and waving a white flag as a sign of surrender, at the hands of the soldiers whose mission was to save them alive, which triggered internal criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Without forgetting its crushing military operation against Hamas deployed since October 7, when the militants of this Islamist organization killed nearly 1,200 people on Israeli territory and kidnapped 200 others. pressure from actors such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, who demand an end to the large-scale operation or “a lasting ceasefire”.
The actions of the troops, who mistakenly shot the captives while they were begging for help – even chasing one of them to the point of killing him – shocked Israeli society, which saw how point the danger that the hostages run when they find themselves in the hands of Hamas, which the Israeli government compares daily to ISIS, are not the only ones. The risk that it will be the Israeli Defense Forces who end the lives of the hundreds of people who still remain in the Gaza Strip appears after this episode to Israeli public opinion as a certain possibility.
The event sparked dozens of protests across Israel on Saturday. At the forefront of the protests are the prisoners’ relatives, who are demanding the negotiation of a truce allowing a new exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, like the one that occurred during the parenthesis that ended on December 1 , when 105 hostages were freed. in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
“Ten days ago I met with the war cabinet and told them that we were all afraid that the hostages could be injured during the fighting; Unfortunately, he was right,” said Rez Ben Hami, kidnapped from Kibbutz Beeri and released during the last truce, during an interview with families on Saturday. “If the (previous) agreement had been delayed by a week, I would not be here,” he added. “Every day, every hour, every minute is crucial. Israel must reach another agreement to release prisoners in exchange for kidnapped people. Because only the military operation will not save their lives.”
The deaths of the hostages by friendly fire come after the Prime Minister ignored all calls for negotiation. Not only victims, but also those of his own Administration. The director of Mossad, the foreign spy service, David Barnea, proposed last Wednesday to return to Qatar and try to resume negotiations for new releases of hostages, according to the Israeli press. The prime minister’s response was to reject the proposal for a new exchange offer, arguing that Hamas cadres in Gaza have lost contact with Ismail Haniye and the rest of the organization’s leaders based in the Gulf country. Persian.
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But despite pressure from families, in a televised speech Saturday, Netanyahu continued his usual hawkish rhetoric, referring to the war as an asset for possible talks. “Without military pressure, we would not have obtained the release of 110 hostages,” he said. “Only with continued military pressure will we achieve the release of everyone. “My order to the negotiating team is based on this pressure without which we will achieve nothing.” However, according to the Israeli and American press, Barnea this time went to Oslo to meet with Qatari negotiators and explore a way out. He also spoke with his counterpart from the Egyptian secret services for the same purpose.
With negotiations already open, Israel and Hamas are willing to reach a deal, even if the two sides disagree on how to get there, according to Reuters, which cited two Egyptian security sources. According to these same sources, Hamas insists on unilaterally establishing the list of hostages to be released and demands the withdrawal of Israeli forces. Israel, for its part, admits that it is Hamas which establishes the names, but demands to know them before setting the time and duration of the truce and rejects the withdrawal proposed by the Islamist organization.
Change of posture
But the current pressure on Netanyahu does not come only from his own country. Two of its main defenders in Europe, the United Kingdom and Germany, have changed their position on the conflict, abandoning their stance against a truce to demanding one, albeit with nuances. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, published an article on Sunday in Sunday hours in which they call for “a lasting ceasefire” in Gaza. This proposal represents a change of position since, until now, the two governments only defended “humanitarian pauses”. They also demand that Israel respect international humanitarian law. “Too many civilians died,” they say.
For his part, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a new visit to Israel and other countries in the region. The objective of his trip, according to Washington Executive sources cited by The New York Times, is to convince Netanyahu to abandon his large-scale air and ground campaign in Gaza. The Biden administration wants to persuade Israel to enter a new phase of the conflict in which elite forces make specific incursions into the Gaza Strip to combat Hamas leaders in a surgical and selective manner, thus avoiding the enormous cost of civilian losses recorded so far.
But the one which has raised its voice the most is France, which condemned on Wednesday the Israeli attack against a residential building in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, which caused the death of an employee of its Ministry of Affairs foreign. Emmanuel Macron’s government demanded that Israel provide explanations “as soon as possible” regarding this attack. The head of the department, Catherine Colonna, met this Sunday with her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen, before whom she defended “a new immediate and lasting truce”. “Too many civilians died,” Colonna said. Cohen, for his part, responded that a ceasefire would be “a mistake and a gift to Hamas.”
Looting of trucks
Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate rapidly. The lack of basic necessities has led its inhabitants to a desperate situation. This Sunday, dozens of Palestinians attacked certain trucks loaded with humanitarian aid which were entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, on the border with Egypt. In the early hours of the morning, Israeli bombardments continued, killing at least 40 people in the northern Jabalia refugee camp and Deir al Balah, according to Gaza authorities.
The army claimed to have taken control of the town of Khan Younis and asked its residents to move west because it is considered a combat zone. In addition to aid entering through Rafah, the Israeli government opened the Kerem Shalom crossing to allow access for more trucks. Until now, this Israeli post was only used to inspect supplies, but vehicles then had to return to Egypt to enter, creating a huge bottleneck.
The Israeli Defense Forces also claimed to have discovered the largest tunnel built by the organization in the Gaza Strip. From its entrance, just 400 meters from Erez, the main popular crossing between Gaza and Israel, it extends about four kilometers underground, as published by the army’s X account (former Twitter). According to the press service, the underground gallery would be a project of Mohamed Sinwar, brother of the leader of Hamas in this territory and whom Israel designates as the mastermind of the October 7 attacks.
Violence also affected the West Bank this Sunday, where five people died in an Israeli attack with drones against the Nur Shams refugee camp, in Tulkarem, in the north of this territory, where dozens of Israeli incursions have taken place since the Hamas attacks. on October 7. The attack brings to 500 the death toll in violent incidents with the army in the area controlled by the Palestinian National Authority so far this year, the highest number since 2002, with the Second Intifada.
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