More hostages released, negotiations to extend deal via BICom
What happened: On Tuesday night, nine Israeli women and one teenage girl, and two Thai nationals were freed from Hamas captivity.
- Those released included three members of the Leimberg family, Gabriela Leimberg (59), Mia Leimberg (17), Clara Marman (63).
- In addition, seven Israeli women – Tamar Metzger (78), Ditza Heiman (84), Noralin Babadila (60), Ada Sagi (75), Ofelia Adit Roitman (77), Rimon Kirsht (36), Meirav Tal (53).
- Images showed the Israeli captives escorted by terrorists from both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad before they were handed over to the Red Cross.
- Similar to previous releases, those released were transferred to Israeli hospitals where they were evaluated physically and mentally and reunited with their families.
- Yesterday, Hamas breached the agreed ceasefire, according to the IDF: “three explosive devices were detonated adjacent to IDF troops in two different locations in the northern Gaza Strip, violating the framework of the operational pause. In one of the locations, terrorists also opened fire at the troops, who responded with fire. A number of soldiers were lightly injured during the incidents. In both incidents, the troops were located in positions as per the framework of the operational pause.”
- In parallel, negotiations resumed in Qatar to extend the current arrangement between Israel and Hamas. The director of Mossad David Barnea held talks alongside head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel, CIA Director William Burns, the Qatari prime minister and their head of intelligence.
Context: So far 61 Israelis and 20 foreign nationals have been released since last Friday. In addition, prior to the pause four were released and one was rescued. The bodies of two hostages were also recovered inside Gaza. There remain an estimated 146 in captivity, with a further ten expected to be released later today.
- According to Yediot Ahronot, and based on Israeli military intelligence, 5,300 Hamas operatives have been killed. This included three Hamas brigade commanders, 14 battalion commanders and dozens of company commanders. Overall, Israel estimate that around 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in total.
- In the latest rounds of negotiations, the Egyptian, Kamal Abbas, joined the US and Israeli officials in Qatar. It is hoped having them all in the room together (not Hamas) will facilitate a smoother, more efficient process.
- Part of the speculation around the talks includes the idea that the Qataris and Egyptians are proposing a deal that might end the war and free all of the remaining Israeli hostages. In exchange the Gaza Strip would be demilitarised and Israel will release thousands of Palestinian terrorists. Israel would also need to agree not to target senior Hamas officials. One option could see them leave Gaza, similar to Arafat leaving Lebanon in 1982.
- While more often it is the mediator that travels in order to facilitate dialogue, in this instance all the parties are prepared to travel to Qatar. This can partly be explained by the fact that Qatar is expected to pay a significant portion of the required funds to rehabilitate Gaza the day after. This also provides a major challenge, as Qatar still supports the continued rule of Hamas, placing them squarely at odds with the Israeli agenda, supported so far by the US.
- The Israel consensus remains that this is a pause and fighting will resume in order to end Hamas’s control of the Strip and their ability to launch attacks in the future.
- Last night, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the US would, “not be able to support further Israeli military operations in the southern Gaza Strip before Israel can guarantee that it would not displace civilians.”
- The IDF is using the pause in fighting to review operational performances and learn lessons ahead of the anticipated resumption of fighting.
- More details have emerged of the conditions in which the hostages were held. Some were treated reasonably, whilst others were subjected to extensive violence; tied up for hours and subjected to humiliation and beaten. They were denied food and water for long periods of time and they were not allowed to use the lavatory. (More details in Israeli media summary below).
Looking ahead: US sources suggest that there are still women and children held captive that could allow for an additional two day extension under the existing framework. AFP claim there is agreement for an additional four days.
- Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Benny Gantz have again publicly committed to renew the military campaign. Netanyahu said, “we are committed to completing our missions, freeing all the hostages, destroying that terror organisation above ground and below ground and, obviously, that Gaza not revert to what it was and that it not pose a threat to the State of Israel.”
- The security cabinet will convene this evening to discuss prolonging the pause by a number of days.