The dual goal of defeating Hamas forever while freeing hostages held in Israel comes up against the harsh reality of a Gaza conflict that has already lasted more than 100 days and shows no signs of a “total military victory” like the one first claims. Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Former armed forces chief Gadi Eizenkot, a member of the cabinet leading the war strategy and a former general who lost a son in fighting in the Gaza Strip a month ago, has warned that the release of the kidnapped people can only be achieved through the route of negotiations, after an end to hostilities. In this climate of uncertainty over the conflict in the Jewish state, the relatives of the more than a hundred prisoners in the Palestinian enclave have redoubled their mobilizations to demand that the government prioritize the release of the hostages over the other goals of the war. To this end, they have camped outside Netanyahu's private residences in Jerusalem and on the Mediterranean coast. Netanyahu received representatives from the Forum of Relatives of Hostages and Missing Persons on Monday and announced that he was considering a settlement regarding the abducted people, without giving them further details.
Sources cited by Portal assured on Wednesday that Israel and Hamas had made progress in establishing a 30-day ceasefire after several weeks of negotiations with Egyptian and Qatari mediators. An Israeli government spokesman later denied the convergence of positions, while the Palestinian Islamist organization remained silent. The exchange of proposals between the two sides has not slowed down in recent days, reportedly in an exercise in negotiation haggling.
Egypt's military intelligence revealed on Tuesday an Israeli ceasefire plan lasting up to 60 days to exchange groups of abductees for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in several phases. Hamas rejected this plan outright because it requires Israel to commit to ending the war and withdrawing from the Palestinian Strip before any kind of agreement is reached. Netanyahu on Monday also rejected another offer from Palestinian Islamists: a 90-day ceasefire and a gradual exchange of hostages for prisoners.
“What is important is that Netanyahu has received a delegation from the families of the hostages, which was not usual during the war, and that there are signs that a possible agreement is being negotiated.” “We are accompanying the first phases of the talks, as it is “It happened before the departure of more than a hundred kidnapped people in November,” explained Yair Moses, a 52-year-old computer engineer, on Tuesday evening in the makeshift camp set up in Jerusalem's central Gaza Street in front of the prime minister's residence. “I hope everything will be fine this time,” he mused after the failure of previous initiatives brokered by Qatar and Egypt and coordinated with Israel through the United States.
Yair Moses, on Tuesday at the camp for the relatives of the hostages kidnapped in Gaza, set up in front of the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. He holds a sign with the picture of his father, Gadi Moses, 79, who was kidnapped on October 7 at Kibbutz Nir Oz.JCS
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Dozens of family members and volunteers were busy preparing a large tent as a meeting room and community kitchen as this forum speaker held up a poster with a picture of his father, Gadi Moses, 79, who was kidnapped at Kibbutz Nir Oz on Oct. 7. a collective farm on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip. “I trust that given his age he can be one of the first to be released,” his son said. There has been no news about him since December 14, when he was shown alive in a video released by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. “We believe that his return home and that of the remaining hostages should be an absolute priority,” he concluded, “since Israeli civil society is on our side.”
As Israel debates a ceasefire, the war in Gaza is accelerating with the biggest offensive in a month in the south of the enclave. The director of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, Thomas White, has reported that at least nine people were killed in an attack on Wednesday afternoon at one of its centers in Khan Younis, where hundreds of people displaced by the war sought refuge people and 75 were injured. “Two tank shells hit a building,” explained White, who fears there will be “a large number of casualties.” The Israeli army continues to bomb the southern Gaza capital and has ordered the evacuation of some sectors where it believes Hamas leaders are hiding.
Evacuation order for civilians
As of midday Wednesday, Gaza's Health Ministry has registered 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 key hospitals in the region and blocked the main escape route to displaced persons camps in Rafah, on the border with Egypt. According to the United Nations, the Israeli army ordered the evacuation of several sectors of Khan Younis, where about 88,000 residents live and about 425,000 displaced people have settled and where the main health centers are still operating. On the edge of the Gaza Strip, the army has already used explosives to destroy 1,100 of the 2,800 buildings it plans to demolish to create a building-free security zone on the border, a military spokesman said on Wednesday. The same source puts the number of Hamas militants killed in combat since the war began to nearly 10,000.
The Israel-Hamas-led plans for a temporary cessation of hostilities call for the release in a first phase of minors, women, chronically ill people and civilian hostages held by Hamas and other Islamic militias in exchange for a ceasefire both parties and the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners is still pending. Qatar's Foreign Ministry stressed that these were “serious negotiations” with outstanding issues that required intensive diplomatic efforts. “We constantly receive counterarguments from both sides,” said a spokesman in Doha.
White House Middle East adviser Brett McGurk, who was involved in the first hostage-for-prisoner swap deal two months ago, is in Egypt on a mediation tour of several countries in the region. One of President Joe Biden's spokesmen explained this Tuesday in Washington that McGurk is studying the possibility of concluding a new hostage-taking agreement “which will require a humanitarian pause of some duration”, without specifying exactly how long it will last, or even take into account that the current contacts are at the “negotiations” level. The Wall Street Journal also reports that Hamas says it is willing to negotiate a deal. Israeli intelligence estimates that the militia and its allies are holding more than 130 hostages in Gaza. However, they state that more than twenty of them died during captivity, without specifying whether this was due to disease or Israeli attacks.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the wave of protests by the relatives of the abductees has been concentrated on the so-called Geiselplatz in front of the Tel Aviv Art Museum, where mass demonstrations were regularly announced. The focus has expanded. Dozens of people camped around Netanyahu's summer and weekend residence in the coastal city of Caesarea on Saturday. “The families are fed up, we demand an agreement now,” they claimed in a statement that put the call for early elections above the prime minister, who appears determined to prolong the war for political reasons through extreme military pressure.
In addition, Sunday evening's protest moved to Netanyahu's private home on Gaza Street in Jerusalem, which has been converted into a de facto official residence due to renovation work on the prime ministers' traditional residence in Israel on nearby Balfour Street. Several members of the Forum of Relatives of Hostages and Missing Persons also broke into a Knesset session on Monday after breaking the security cordon of the legislative chamber to demand their release before being expelled from parliament buildings by security forces. Hundreds of women carried banners reading “Time is running out” and blocked streets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv this Wednesday to protest the delay in reaching a ceasefire that would allow hostages to leave Gaza.
Given the growing importance of mobilizations in the media, Netanyahu decided to receive a delegation from the Family Forum on Monday. He assured them that there was “no real Hamas proposal” behind their ceasefire plan, which he defined as “Israel’s surrender.” Finally, the Prime Minister told the relatives of the abductees that he had his own suggestion, but he did not elaborate. As later became known on social networks, the plan envisages a ceasefire of up to 60 days with the exchange of hostages for prisoners, as the digital information portal Axios revealed.
On Monday evening, protesters sprayed red-colored water on Netanyahu's private home on Gaza Street, which was protected by a heavy police presence and dotted with fences and barricades that had cut off this busy artery in central Jerusalem. As the storm of rain and cold sweeps across the Middle East, relatives of the hostages warn they will not leave the camp until there is a commitment to release the prisoners.
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