vhen months after the terrorist attack by the Islamist Hamas on Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken clearly called for moderation in the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. The dehumanization that Israel experienced in the Hamas massacre on October 7 “cannot be a license” to dehumanize others, he said on Wednesday after talks in Tel Aviv.
Given the suffering of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip due to the Israeli military offensive, Blinken called on the government in Tel Aviv to allow more humanitarian aid. The overwhelming majority of people in the coastal area had nothing to do with the Hamas attack, he said. “We cannot and must not lose sight of our common humanity,” he warned.
Netanyahu: Can win war
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, reiterated his government's hard line. It is necessary to continue to exert military pressure on Hamas to free the hostages kidnapped in the Gaza Strip, he said. There is no alternative to a military collapse of the militant Palestinian organization. The head of government was convinced that the Gaza war could be won in a few months.
On October 7, terrorists acting on behalf of Hamas carried out a devastating massacre of hundreds of civilians in Israel. Since then, Israel has been waging war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. According to the Hamas health authority, more than 100,000 people were killed and injured or are missing under rubble. The information cannot be factually verified independently. The high number of civilian casualties in the Gaza war and the humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian civilian population caused by the conflict have sparked international criticism of Israel's actions.
Netanyahu criticizes Hamas demands for hostage deal
During the attack on Israel, more than 200 people were kidnapped as hostages in the Gaza Strip. Some of them have since been released. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vehemently rejected the demands made by Hamas in return for a possible new hostage deal. The conditions imposed would likely lead to another massacre, he said. The Palestinian organization had previously responded to an international mediation proposal and, in return for further release of hostages, demanded that Israel release more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners from prisons – including 500 prisoners who were sentenced to life or very long prison terms. Hamas also called for a complete and comprehensive ceasefire, an end to the blockade of Gaza and the reconstruction of the war-ravaged coastal area. Israel rejects this.
US Secretary of State Blinken, on the other hand, sees chances for a possible deal between Israel and Hamas. Hamas' reaction to the international mediation proposal contained some “nonsense,” said Blinken. “But we also see room in what came back to continue negotiations and see whether we can come to an agreement,” he emphasized. “And we believe we should use it.”
Freed hostages criticize government course
Meanwhile, several former hostages criticized the Israeli government's course. The price of freeing the people still held in the Gaza Strip is high, a woman admitted at a press conference, according to the Times of Israel newspaper. “But if we don't, it will tarnish Israel forever.” If the hostages don't come home, everyone will know “that we live in a country that doesn't worry about our security, that doesn't protect its citizens.” said another released woman. Everything is in Netanyahu's hands, another former hostage said, according to the report. She is very afraid that there will be no more abductees to free if the Prime Minister continues on his path.
UN chief warns Israel against offensive in southern Gaza
UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned Israel against a military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip. “I am particularly disturbed by reports that the Israeli military intends to next focus on Rafah – where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are under pressure in a desperate search for safety,” Guterres told the UN General Assembly in New York. Such an action would “exponentially compound what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.”
Netanyahu had previously said he had instructed the army's political leadership to prepare for battle in Rafah.
EU military operation in the Red Sea to begin soon
Meanwhile, plans for the EU military operation to secure merchant shipping in the Red Sea are nearing completion. As several diplomats confirmed to the German Press Agency, a written decision-making process to set up Operation Aspides is scheduled to begin on Friday. The basic plan for the EU military operation is to send European warships to the region to protect cargo ships. These are then intended to protect merchant ships there from attacks by the militant Islamist Houthis from Yemen. The militia wants to force an end to the Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip by shelling ships.
According to media reports, new negotiations for the release of further hostages are to begin today in the Egyptian capital Cairo. According to a report by the Al-Jazeera television channel, Hamas boss Ismail Haniya is also expected to attend the talks moderated by Egypt and Qatar. In Israel, US Secretary of State Blinken also wants to meet with Benny Gantz, Minister in the War Cabinet, and opposition leader Jair Lapid.