Despite the progress in the release of the four captives, the non-stop bombardment has made the Qatari mediation efforts more challenging.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected calls for a ceasefire on Monday after Hamas released a video of women captives in Gaza who lashed out at Tel Aviv for their failure to release them.
The video shows three captives addressing the Israeli PM and accusing him on using their lives as a political chip.
“You had to free us all and instead we are diving in your political, security, military chaos, because of the mess you made on October 7, because there was no army there,” one of the three captives said.
She added: “You are killing us, you want to kill us all. You want to find a way to kill us all. It’s not enough that you killed everyone[…] free us all.”
In a press briefing shortly after, Netanyahu described the video as “psychological propaganda” and rejected calls for a ceasefire. The Israeli official said he believes a ceasefire would mean Israel would “surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism”.
“That will not happen,” he said. “Israel did not start this war. Israel did not want this war. But Israel will win this war,” he claimed.
Natanyahu has been under mounting pressure from Israelis who have been calling for the release of more than 200 captives from Hamas.
The Palestinian resistance movement captured them during the October 7 ‘Operation Al Aqsa Flood’, during which they infiltrated territories held by Israel through air, land and sea for the first time in years.
The director of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency Ronen Bar admitted on October 16 that it had failed to detect Hamas’ infiltration into Gaza at the time.
The operation, the biggest of its kind in modern history, was carried out by Al Qassam Brigades—Hamas’ armed wing—which said it was in response to Israel’s non-stop attacks on Palestinians and storming of holy sites, including Al Aqsa Mosque.
However, Israel has since used the operation to justify its brutal onslaught against millions of Palestinians in Gaza. Since the start of the war, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have killed at least 8,306 Palestinians, including 3,457 children—who represent 40% of the figure.
Despite Israel killing at least 50 of the captives located in Gaza, the IOF has intensified its attacks on the Strip – one of the most densely populated regions in the world.
Qatar, the host of the Hamas political bureau, has been leading negotiations to release civilians from the Palestinian group as part of de-escalation efforts to end the bloodshed in Gaza.
However, the Gulf state does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and has long expressed its staunch refusal to normalise with the occupying state over its ongoing violations of Palestinians’ rights.
On October 20, Qatar’s diplomatic role proved to be successful with the release of two American captives, identified as Judith Raanan and Natalie Raanan—a mother and a daughter, from Hamas.
Then on October 23, Qatar and Egypt pushed for the release of two elderly women from Hamas, both identified as 79-year old Nurit Yitzhak and 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz.
Hamas said it released all captives on humanitarian grounds and the Gulf state has confirmed that efforts to release more people from Gaza have not stopped.
Meanwhile, the United States has defended Israel’s rejection of a ceasefire, saying that it is not “the right answer”. The US, Israel’s main backer, blocked four United Nations resolutions that called for a ceasefire in Gaza.
“We do not believe that a ceasefire is the right answer right now,” Kirby said. “We believe that a ceasefire right now benefits Hamas, and Hamas is the only one that would gain from that right now,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday.
Israel intensifies attacks
Despite the release of the four captives, Israel has intensified its non-stop bombardment on Gaza, making Qatari mediation efforts more challenging.
“With this violence increasing everyday, with this bombing continuous everyday our task has become even more difficult. But despite that, we remain hopeful, we remain committed to our role of reaching out to the parties with the aim of reaching a positive result,” Qatar’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed Al Khulaifi told Sky News on Thursday.
He added: “In any normal scenario, if the mediator wants to perform its task in the best way possible, we need to reach a period of calm, we need to reach a period where we can speak logically to both sides and come up with positive initiatives on that.”
The IOF has been advancing into Gaza as part of its threats to wage an all-out ground invasion on the Strip, though it has faced Hamas fighters foiling their attempts.
On Monday, an Israeli tank and bulldozer entered central Gaza, blocking the only accessible road for Palestinians to exit the northern part of the enclave.
Over the past two weeks, Israel has been positioning its forces along the Gaza border in what has been widely described as the “largest pull-up” of Israeli forces in the occupying state’s history.
Hamas said it has foiled Israel’s repeated attempts to invade Gaza, saying it was prepared for such a move and confirmed the destruction of a number of tanks.
The war has caused a humanitarian catastrophe on the ground in Gaza, where at least one million have been internally displaced. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) noted that the destruction of homes would take years to rebuild.
Since Israel ordered a complete siege on Gaza on October 8, Palestinians have been surviving without sufficient fuel and water supply, adding to the struggle of the city’s overwhelmed medical sector.
Hospitals are facing what the UN described as “an unprecedented level of devastation” as medics work round the clock to respond to thousands of injuries with limited resources. Health facilities, where thousands of displaced Palestinians are seeking shelter, have been receiving repeated bomb threats by Israel.
More than one-third of hospitals in Gaza have already shut down either due to damage or lack of fuel, and the remaining 10 hospitals in the north of the Strip continue to face threats.
On Monday, an Israeli attack destroyed the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) confirmed on the same day that 26 trucks with humanitarian aid have entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Since October 7, only 144 trucks have crossed from Egypt into the Strip, the PRCS said.
The Rafah crossing, the only portal in and out of Gaza that is not under Israeli control, has been closed since Israel declared war on Gaza on October 7 and has been targeted by Israeli airstrikes at least three times.
The border opened last week for a limited time to allow the entry of around 70 aid trucks into the besieged Palestinian enclave, none of which included fuel.