Middle East, Hamas ultimatum: “If Hamas wants hostages, stop the war”

middle East

No prisoner negotiations or “swap agreements” without “a complete cessation of aggression.” Hamas once again reiterates its position and rules out the possibility of a truce with Israel. The organization that governs the Gaza Strip also released a video showing three hostages, Elia Toledano, Ron Sherman and Nik Beizer, whose bodies were recovered last week by the Israeli army. The video directly accuses Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of their deaths, claiming they were killed by IDF attacks. The spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, Abu Obeida, declared that “if the enemy wants its prisoners alive” it has no choice but to “stop the aggression”. Netanyahu’s statements are equally harsh: “The choice I offer Hamas is very simple: surrender or die”, “they have and will have no other choice”. The Israeli Prime Minister then reiterated that neither Hamas nor Fatah, the party of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, will govern the Gaza Strip. According to Arab media, however, negotiations in Cairo between the two parties involved are still ongoing. The proposal – reported Egyptian sources – foresees a ratio of one to ten, that is, one Israeli hostage for every ten Palestinian prisoners. Tel Aviv, however, would like to know in advance which Palestinian prisoners are included on the Hamas list before accepting. Egypt, in turn, reportedly asked Hamas for information about the conditions of the 40 hostages that Israel would like to release first. A list that includes women, the elderly and the sick. Expectations also remain high regarding what could happen at the UN Security Council, where intense diplomatic mediation work is underway regarding the new resolution on Gaza.

The vote has been postponed several times in recent days. The objective is to avoid a United States veto. On the ground, however, the Israeli army intensified its offensive in the center of Gaza City, where it announced that it had “full control” of the Shejaiya neighborhood, after violent fighting with Palestinian militiamen. Dozens of tunnels, found under homes, schools and health clinics, were destroyed, along with weapons caches, the Israeli military said. The excavators of Israeli forces – as reported by Al Jazeera – would have destroyed the Sheikh Shaban cemetery, in the eastern part of Gaza. “The dead were exhumed and crushed by excavators,” said the Arab television correspondent, stating that “parts of the corpses, including those of children”, were “clearly visible”. The humanitarian situation is dramatic. A report published by the United Nations concluded that more than half a million people in Gaza are “starving” due to insufficient food entering the Strip since the war began more than two months ago. Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Programme, spoke of the risk of a “real famine in the next six months”. Tensions also remain high on Israel’s northern border, where Hezbollah has continued to fire rockets into the Jewish state. Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, warned Beirut: “Lebanon must and will be held accountable for the terrorism emanating from its territory.”

Source: IL Tempo