Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Netanyahu said Israel was speaking to Qatar and Egypt “regarding negotiations to release the hostages”.
Qatar’s diplomatic efforts to renew the humanitarian pause in Gaza are “ongoing” with hopes of achieving a “comprehensive” ceasefire agreement, Doha’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sheikha Alya Al-Thani, confirmed in New York on Saturday.
“Qatar affirmed its ongoing diplomatic efforts to renew the humanitarian pause and expressed hope for building upon the progress made to accomplish a comprehensive and sustainable agreement that would end the war,” Sheikha Alya said, as cited by a Qatar foreign ministry statement.
The Qatari diplomat’s comments came during the 10th emergency special session of the UN General Assembly “on the Israeli illegal actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory”.
The meeting aimed at reaching a draft resolution by the Arab Group on protecting civilians and adhering to international law, following the UN Security Council’s failure to adopt a ceasefire resolution on December 8.
The United States had used its veto power to block the resolution.
Speaking at the UN session in New York, Sheikha Alya also called “for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages, as well as ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid”.
Qatar, alongside Egypt, mediated a temporary truce that began on November 24 and was renewed twice, ultimately ending on December 1 and lasting seven days.
The pause led to the release of at least 110 Israeli and foreign captives from Gaza, according to a Doha News tally. As part of the deal, Israel released 240 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons.
Israel resumed its brutal war on Gaza after the truce expired on Friday, December 1, while advancing deeper into the Palestinian enclave, despite the presence of 129 captives in the Strip.
The Israeli occupation forces admitted that it “mistakenly” killed three captives in northern Gaza on Friday. The three hostages were identified as Yotam Haim, Samar Talalka and Alon Shamriz. All were waving a white flag and were misidentified “as a threat”, the Israeli military said on X.
An initial Israeli probe found that the forces that fired at the three hostages did so in violation of the Israeli Defence Forces’ protocols, The Times of Israel reported on December 16.
Truce negotiations back on
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under immense public pressure in Tel Aviv since Israel killed the three captives in Gaza.
Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Netanyahu said Israel is still speaking to Qatar and Egypt “regarding negotiations to release the hostages.” Netanyahu also said he had “serious criticisms of Qatar.”
“We have serious criticisms of Qatar, about which I suppose you will hear in due course, but right now we are trying to complete the recovery of our hostages,” he said, signalling a fresh round of negotiations to recover the remaining captives in Gaza.
Netanyahu pledged to destroy Hamas through Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza.
“The instruction I am giving the negotiating team is predicated on this pressure, without which we have nothing,” he said.
Israel had said on December 2 that it pulled out its negotiators from talks with Qatar, Egypt and the United States over a renewed pause, declaring an impasse in the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Hamas responded to Netanyahu’s latest remarks on Saturday evening by renewing its rejection of negotiations without the complete halt of the Israeli war on Gaza.
“We affirm our position of rejecting any negotiations to exchange prisoners unless the aggression stops completely and we inform the mediators of that,” Hamas said, as quoted by Al Jazeera.
As of Saturday, Israel has killed at least 18,800 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestine’s health authorities.
Euro-Med reported a much higher figure on Thursday of nearly 25,000, including more than 9,643 children and those who are presumed dead under the rubble. The European rights organisation has not updated the figure since December 14.