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Israel Recalls Negotiators From Qatar, Steps Up Strikes on Hamas

2023-12-03 00:58
Israel pulled its negotiating team out of Qatar, denting hopes that a seven-day cease-fire in its war with
Israel Recalls Negotiators From Qatar, Steps Up Strikes on Hamas

Israel pulled its negotiating team out of Qatar, denting hopes that a seven-day cease-fire in its war with Hamas that ended Friday could quickly resume and more hostages be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

“Hamas did not uphold its part of the agreement, which included the release of all of the children and women according to a list that was given to Hamas and approved by it,” the Israeli prime minister’s office said in a statement on Saturday.

The Israel Defense Forces increased strikes on Hamas targets in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, the second day of combat following the end of the truce on Friday morning, and said it has hit more than 400 targets so far.

Those attacks came a day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel to do all it can to protect civilian lives as he concluded his third swing through the region since early October.

Israel has come under intense pressure from the US, its most important ally, and countries ranging from Turkey to South Africa over the heavy death toll in Gaza. Authorities in Gaza say more than 15,200 people, most of them women and children, have been killed there since Israel started its response to the Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel by Hamas.

Israel had responded to the killing of about 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers and the abduction of 240 people in a raid across Gaza’s boundary by Hamas.

Hamas said hundreds of civilians have been killed and wounded since the fighting resumed both in the north and, increasingly, south of Gaza. The information hasn’t been independently verified.

Humanitarian Support

Mark Regev, special adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Saturday dismissed reports that Israel’s military has been blocking the entrance of aid into Gaza.

“We will facilitate the entrance into the Gaza strip of humanitarian support for the civilians of Gaza,” Regev said at a press conference in Tel Aviv. “As we move in now to crush Hamas, we will in parallel continue to to facilitate humanitarian support for people of Gaza that is part of our credo.”

Regev said that the military has set up a number of safe zones for civilians and accused Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist operation by the US and European Union, of using civilians as human shields.

In what may be an attempt to protect civilians, the Israel Defense Force has begun using a micro-zone map in Gaza to issue alerts to residents in certain areas, urging them to evacuate immediately.

Peter Lerner, spokesman for the IDF for the international media, said dozens of trucks with aid have been let into Gaza, while Regev conceded that there may be halts to the movement of aid at times, due to fighting.

The Hamas-run border crossing authority said on Friday no aid had been delivered since the truce had ended. Aid resumed on Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, with 50 trucks crossing as of mid-afternoon.

The conflict will be a “long war,” Lerner said, while Regev declined to directly answer a question as to whether Israel will set up a buffer zone around Gaza once the conflict is over. The special adviser said Israel will maintain over all military control for “the foreseeable future” and there will need to be a “Gaza envelope,” he said.

Israel’s strikes on Saturday were mostly focused on the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, where the military said it struck more than 50 Hamas targets with air-strikes, tank fire and its navy.

More than 250 rockets have been fired toward Israel since fighting resumed on Friday, Lerner said.

During his visit on Friday, Blinken delivered a direct warning to Israel’s war cabinet — that the devastation unleashed on northern Gaza must not be repeated.

His comments reflected a growing sense of alarm among senior Biden administration officials about what fresh crisis awaits as Israel turns its military attention to Gaza’s south. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled there on Israel’s orders — and now have nowhere else to flee.

“I made clear that after the pause it was imperative that Israel put in place clear protections for civilians and for sustaining humanitarian assistance going forward,” Blinken said in Dubai, moments before boarding a plane back to Washington.

French President Emmanuel Macron joined the criticism on Saturday, saying the war between Israel and Hamas could last 10 years if Israel’s goal is a full victory over Hamas, which he says no-one has clearly defined. He was speaking at the COP28 conference in Dubai, before heading to Qatar later Saturday to thank the country for its role is releasing hostages.

US Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to the Amir of Qatar on Saturday from the COP28 summit in Dubai after becoming aware that talks on a renewed pause in fighting broke down, according to a White House official.

During the call, she emphasized that the US “would remain committed to relentlessly pursuing the release of all the hostages in close cooperation with Qatar,” according to a readout.

Read More: White House Says Israel ‘Mindful’ of Need to Protect Civilians

--With assistance from Fares Akram and Ania Nussbaum.