Middle east

7 Hostages Killed in Israeli Strike Disrupting Ceasefire Talks

Israelis protest outside the Washington embassy urging US President to pressure Netanyahu for a deal with Hamas ensuring a prisoner swap

Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas‘ military wing, said Friday that seven hostages held in Gaza were killed as a result of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, while negotiations between Israel and Hamas remain stuck over mutual conditions.

He reported that the number of Israeli prisoners killed in the strikes on Gaza reached 70, adding, “The price we will take for five living hostages or ten is the same as we would have taken for all the prisoners if the strikes had not killed them.”

The widening list of casualties among the hostages threatens to further exacerbate the crises facing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom the Israeli opposition and several Cabinet war ministers hold responsible for the failure to settle this issue due to his obstinacy and insistence on his position that continuing strikes and pressuring Hamas is the only way to push the Palestinian movement to release the hostages.

Israelis protested Friday outside the Washington embassy urging US President Joe Biden to pressure their Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a deal with Hamas guaranteeing a prisoner swap.

Protesters carried signs reading, “Mr. Biden, help us save them” and “Bring them all home immediately,” and the demonstration saw the participation of Israeli hostage families, estimated by Tel Aviv to number around 134 prisoners.

In a related context, the Israeli website “Ynet” reported statements by participants in the protest in which they said, “The American government has shown more support for the cause of Israeli hostages than the Israeli government.”

They added that the Biden administration “has been more engaged in the issue of hostages than the Israeli government, and therefore hostage families, along with other activists, will call on the responsible adult to exert pressure and save the captives from Hamas and the extremist government,” referring to Biden.

They continued, saying, “We understand that the path to freeing the hostages in a responsible deal that will restore security to the country and the entire region will be through the American government, under the leadership of President Biden.”

The demonstration outside the US embassy coincided with a four-day march launched Wednesday from the “Re’im” kibbutz in the Gaza envelope to West Jerusalem.

The United States, Egypt, and Qatar are in the middle of crafting a deal for exchanging Palestinian and Israeli prisoners and a prolonged ceasefire in Gaza.

While no progress has been announced in this path, Netanyahu said Thursday that it was “too early to say Tel Aviv had reached a deal on a prisoner exchange with Hamas.”

In a related context, the World Health Organization said today that people in Gaza are risking their lives to obtain food, water, and other necessities, as the situation has reached levels of hunger and despair with the continuation of Israeli attacks.

Christian Lindmeier, a spokesman for the organization, told reporters in Geneva, “The system in Gaza is on the brink of collapse, if not more… All life arteries in Gaza have been cut off one way or another,” adding that this has created a “desperate situation,” as on Thursday when more than 100 people were killed as they sought humanitarian aid.

Gaza health authorities say Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians while they were waiting to receive aid, while Israel says what happened was due to a stampede and clashes between crowds surrounding aid trucks.

Lindmeier said, “People desperately need food, clean water, any supplies, to the point that they are risking their lives to get any food or supplies to support their children and sustain themselves.”

While aid reaches areas in southern Gaza, it is so slow that it may not be sufficient to avert a hunger crisis there. No aid reaches the northern areas far from the main border crossing and can only be reached through more fiercely contested frontlines.

Israel claims that the lack of sufficient aid entering Gaza to meet humanitarian needs is due to the failure of the United Nations in distribution.

A senior UN aid official told the Security Council on Tuesday that a quarter of Gaza’s population is one step away from famine and that widespread famine may be “almost inevitable” unless there is action.

France and Germany joined Friday in calling for an independent investigation into the killing of dozens of Palestinians waiting to receive aid in Gaza, an incident Israeli media said would weaken Israel’s position internationally after its forces opened fire on that crowd of Palestinians.

French President Emmanuel Macron said, “There is great anger at the images coming from Gaza, where Israeli soldiers targeted civilians. I express my strong condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law,” while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris would support an independent investigation sought by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, “The Israeli army must provide a full explanation of what happened of panic and the use of mass shooting,” while the United States, Israel’s closest ally, called for a comprehensive investigation and said the incident showed the need to “deliver larger humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

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