Four hostages’ families meet with Sunak and Cameron as UK imposes new sanctions on Hamas and PIJ via BICom
What’s happened: In London, Eli Albag, father of 18-year-old Liri; Ziv Abud, girlfriend of 26-year-old hostage Eliya Cohen; and Liran Berman, brother of 26-year-old twins Ziv and Gali Berman met with Prime Minister Sunak and Foreign Secretary Cameron.
- Albag told Israeli media, “we received a warm embrace from the prime minister and from David Cameron, and the understanding and action that they intend to take. Our message is to put pressure on everyone, on our own prime minister to reach a deal willingly and, on the other hand, we asked them to pressure the Qataris.”
- Separately, the UK government announced that along with the US and Australia they have imposed “coordinated sanctions” on five key Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) figures to target their financial networks.
- Foreign Secretary Cameron said, “These sanctions send a clear message to Hamas – the UK and our partners are committed to ensuring there is no hiding place for those financing terrorist activities. To reach a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza, Hamas can no longer be in power and able to threaten Israel. By disrupting the financial networks which sustain Hamas’ operation, including from Iran, these sanctions support that crucial aim.”
- In Gaza, following manoeuvres over the last few weeks across Khan Yunis, the IDF advanced its operations in the western part of the city and completed its encirclement.
- IDF Spokesperson Hagari described the combat in “very complex terrain, densely populated with many Hamas terrorists concealed in the area, including in sensitive facilities, trying to surprise our forces.”
- He confirmed that over recent days the IDF “destroyed a tunnel network spanning a kilometre and a half as well as a rocket production facility. We eliminated over 100 terrorists in western Khan Yunis in the last day.”
- The underground rocket manufacturing site was the largest one found in southern Gaza.
Context: In December 2023, alongside new sanctions on Iran, the UK imposed sanctions on seven Hamas-linked individuals – “key figures in the network that has financed Hamas, including individuals in Lebanon and Algeria. These stringent measures,” the government said, “show that individuals linked to Hamas will not be able to escape accountability, even if they are operating from outside of Gaza.”
- The disaster on Monday where 21 IDF reservists were killed occurred as part of the operation to create a one-kilometre-deep “buffer zone” along the length of the Gaza Strip.
- The attack took place just 600 metres inside the Strip, adjacent to Kibbutz Kissufim, one of the areas from which the terrorists entered Israel on October 7th.
- The buffer zone aims to create a sterile zone without any buildings that could serve as a base from which to launch future attacks, and is seen as a vital component to reassure residents of the Gaza periphery to eventually return to their homes.
- According to the IDF, there were 2,850 buildings in proximity to the fence, of which the IDF has already destroyed around 1,100.
- Overall, the latest IDF assessment is that 17 of the original 24 Hamas battalions have been critically damaged and their command and control disrupted.
- The remaining battalions are the focus of the fighting in Khan Yunis, plus in the areas of Rafah and in the southern edge close to the Egyptian border.
- Despite losing their fighting formation, Hamas fighters have returned to their founding principles and remain able to operate as small cells, taking advantage of their remaining access to the tunnel shafts to attack IDF soldiers with anti-tank missiles and improvised explosive devices.
- According to the latest IDF assessment, around 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed. Hamas figures cite over 25,000 Gazans killed, without making a distinction between combatants and civilians.
- IDF efforts to destroy Hamas’s overall control of the Strip are ongoing, with most senior Hamas leaders remaining at large.
- There are reports in the international media that Israel and Hamas are close to reaching a new deal to release the hostages, again in stages in return for a pause in fighting and a higher ratio of Palestinian prisoners in return. There has been no official Israeli response to these reports.
Looking ahead: Foreign Secretary Cameron will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority again this week. His trip will also include stops in Qatar and Turkey.
- According to the FCDO, his focus will be to “get more aid into Gaza, hostages out and reach a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.”
- The statement adds, “the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have set out the necessary elements for progress – Hamas must agree to the release of all hostages, they can no longer be in charge of Gaza and the threat from their terror and rocket attacks must end. An agreement must also be put in place for the Palestinian Authority to return to Gaza in order to provide governance and services and, increasingly, security.”