Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rejected the possibility of releasing “thousands” of Palestinian prisoners as part of any agreement to cease hostilities in Gaza. Speaking at the Eli settlement in the occupied West Bank, Netanyahu stated, “We will not withdraw the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip, and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” as reported by news agency AFP.
The Israel-Hamas conflict continued unabated in Gaza as international mediators sought a new ceasefire and a potential release of hostages. Overnight, heavy Israeli strikes and urban combat resulted in 128 additional casualties in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory.
The epicenter of the conflict remained the southern city of Khan Yunis, where extensive areas were reduced to a bombed-out wasteland. Israeli forces conducted raids on military sites, including the office of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, and claimed to have eliminated over 2,000 terrorists both above and below ground.
In a separate incident, Israeli undercover troops in the occupied West Bank killed three alleged members of a Hamas “terrorist cell” during a hospital raid. The agents, some disguised as medical staff, shot dead three men at Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin, AFP reported citing officials and hospital CCTV footage.
The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, identified the deceased as Muhammad Jalamnah, Muhammad Ayman Ghazawi, and Basel Ayman Ghazawi. The Israeli army alleged that Jalamnah, inspired by the October 7 attack, had planned a terror attack and used the hospital as a hiding place.
The Gaza conflict, now in its fourth month, has caused extensive damage and a humanitarian crisis for its 2.4 million inhabitants. Israel accused around a dozen staff of the main UN aid agency for Palestinians of participating in the October 7 attack, leading to the suspension of funding by key donor countries.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, seeking continued support to address the dire needs, will hold talks with donors in New York as investigations into Israel’s claims continue. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged UNRWA to address the allegations, emphasising its indispensable role in providing assistance in Gaza.
In ongoing efforts to broker a new truce, CIA chief William Burns met with top Israeli, Egyptian, and Qatari officials in Paris. While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office described the talks as “constructive,” significant gaps still exist.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, part of the negotiations, reported “good progress” with a proposed phased truce, including the release of women and children hostages and the entry of aid into Gaza. Hamas confirmed receiving the proposal and is examining it, stating it could lead to a permanent ceasefire.
The deadliest Gaza war was triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, resulting in significant casualties. The conflict has escalated, with fears of a broader Middle East conflict involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Tensions heightened following a drone attack near the Syrian and Iraqi borders, leading to concerns of a widening regional conflict.