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Fresh offensive in Gaza as ceasefire talks resume

Netanyahu lists demands for ceasefire, as hostage deal talks are scheduled to resume this week.
TJI Wrap
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Rubble of bombed buildings with standing buildings in background

Destroyed homes in Khan Yunis on Monday (AFP)

Published: 9 July 2024

Last updated: 9 July 2024

Nearly two million people have been displaced in Gaza – almost the entire population – after the Israeli military last week ordered a further 80,000 people to evacuate parts of Gaza City amid a renewed ground operation.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has stepped up assaults in several parts of the Strip, including the Shujaya neighbourhood in the north, where it previously said it had dismantled Hamas.

An IDF assessment found much of Hamas’s tunnel network is still in a “good functional state” in many parts of Gaza, and the terror group still has the capacity to organise raids close to the border with Israel and possibly even across it.

UNRWA, the main UN agency for Palestinian refugees, estimates that up to 1.9 million people in Gaza have been internally displaced – about 90% of the population of the Strip, estimated by the UN to be around 2.1 million people. The number of displaced people rose from 1.7 million since Israel launched its offensive on the southern city of Rafah in May.

The fresh flurry of offensives raises questions about how and when Israel will wind down its war, which has been fought for nearly nine months with the aims of destroying Hamas’s military and governing capacities and rescuing Israeli hostages.

Hostage deal talks are scheduled to resume in Cairo and Doha later this week.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a list on Sunday evening of what he said were four non-negotiable Israeli demands, including a guarantee that Israel could resume fighting.

Netanyahu’s statement, at a crucial phase ahead of the resumption of talks, sparked anger, both in Israel and among mediators, with some accusing him of attempting to sabotage hard-won progress.

Jonathan Lis wrote in Haaretz that members of the international community have been trying to puzzle out Netanyahu's intentions. “Does he want a deal that it is also likely to lead to a wider ceasefire, or are the moves meant merely to temporarily placate public opinion in Israel and the hostages' families protest movement and relieve the heavy international pressure also being placed on him, before the deal's eventual sabotage?”

Hamas appeared to soften its position on Saturday, saying that it was ready to discuss a hostage deal and an end to the war in Gaza without an upfront commitment by Israel to a “complete and permanent ceasefire”. That statement constitutes a shift in the position Hamas has held in all previous negotiations since November.

But there were mixed responses reported from Hamas to Netanyahu’s demands released the following day. Associated Press sighted messages signed by several senior Hamas figures in Gaza urging the group's exiled political leadership to accept the ceasefire proposal pitched by US President Joe Biden.

The messages, shared by a Middle East official familiar with the ongoing negotiations, described the heavy losses Hamas has suffered on the battlefield and the dire conditions in the war-ravaged territory.

Haaretz reported Hamas leadership overseas has told the heads of Gaza-based factions that the chances of reaching a hostage-ceasefire deal are now slim.

"Netanyahu supports talks without a deadline in order to gain time… Netanyahu's goal is to address [the US] Congress while the war is still on and reach [the Knesset's] summer recess with a deal," a Hamas official in Gaza said. He added that "anyone expecting a breakthrough is living in an illusion".

Israeli officials had said its incursion into Rafah – the southernmost point of Gaza to which Hamas was thought to have regrouped after Israel’s destruction of the north – would be the final stage of its war, but the uptick in fighting in the north of the Strip suggests Hamas has regained some positions in areas previously cleared.

Tens of thousands of people protested throughout Israel on Saturday evening, continuing weekly protests supporting a ceasefire deal for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

READ MORE

Almost entire population in Gaza now displaced amid fresh Israeli offensive (CNN)

IDF assesses much of Hamas tunnel network still in ‘good functional state’ – report (Times of Israel)

Netanyahu issues list of ‘non-negotiable’ demands as hostage talks slated to restart (Times of Israel)

With Hamas hostage talks in crucial phase, foreign leaders are perplexed by Netanyahu’s mixed messages (Jonathan Lis, Haaretz)  

‘We’re held captive by Netanyahu and Sinwar’: Thousands protest for hostage deal (Times of Israel)

Hamas leadership says chances slim for hostage deal following Netanyahu’s statement (Haaretz)  

Hamas leadership's secret correspondence on cease-fire: 'We are suffering heavy losses, situation in Gaza is terrible' (Ynet)

Holding a Sinwar victory pic, Smotrich pans hostage deal; Lapid to PM: We’ll back it (Times of Israel)

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