Israel's Netanyahu vows no let-up against Hamasmilitants on Monday. At the same time, Palestinians were mourning the deaths of more than 100 people in Gaza overnight who were killed by Israeli airstrikes.
Netanyahu met with Israeli troops in the northern Gaza Strip just hours after one of the deadliest nights in the 11-week war between Israel and Hamas in the besieged area.
Israel has been under pressure from its closest partner, the US, to lower the intensity of its operations in Gaza to punish Hamas for its deadly cross-border rampage on October 7. The goal is to reduce the number of civilian deaths.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing a black coat
In the wake of a deadly cross-border rampage by Hamas on October 7, Israel finds itself at a critical juncture in its ongoing conflict with the militant group. Despite calls from the United States to shift operations in Gaza to a lower-intensity phase, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has firmly asserted that the war is far from over.
Addressing Members of Parliament from his Likud party, Netanyahu dismissed media speculation about a potential halt to the fighting, emphasizing that military pressure is essential for the release of remaining hostages. He declared:
We are expanding the fight in the coming days and this will be a long battle and it isn’t close to finished.- Benjamin Netanyahu
During a visit to Gaza, Netanyahu conveyed a resolute message to soldiers on the ground:
We are not stopping. The war will continue until the end, until we finish it, no less.- Benjamin Netanyahu
In a surprising development, Hamas released additional hostages as Netanyahu visited troops in the war zone. The move comes amidst cool public receptions from both Israel and Hamas to an Egyptian proposal aimed at ending the bitter conflict. While neither side outright rejected the plan, the tepid response raises the possibility of renewed diplomacy to halt the devastating Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian proposal outlines a phased hostage release and the formation of a Palestinian government of experts to administer the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. The details, worked out in collaboration with Qatar, were presented to Israel, Hamas, the U.S., and European governments. Egypt and Qatar, serving as mediators, play crucial roles in brokering discussions between Israel and Hamas, with the U.S. acting as a key regional power.
Recent casualties in Gaza, including at least 70 people killed in an airstrike in Maghazi, have intensified international concerns. Funerals for the victims took place against a backdrop of escalating tensions, with one mourner questioning the targeting of civilians:"What did they do wrong? Were there resistance fighters here?"
Pope Francis, in a Christmas message, condemned the loss of innocent lives, describing children dying in wars, including in Gaza, as the "little Jesuses of today." The Pope criticized Israeli strikes for reaping an "appalling harvest" of civilians.
Israeli authorities maintain that they are committed to minimizing harm to civilians, while Hamas denies using civilians as human shields. The conflict has claimed nearly 20,700 lives in Gaza, with 250 reported fatalities in the last 24 hours alone.
Diplomatic efforts, spearheaded by Egypt and Qatar, to secure a truce for the release of hostages have made little public progress. Hamas and its ally, Islamic Jihad, have rejected an Egyptian proposal that requires them to relinquish power in Gaza for a permanent ceasefire.
The militant groups insist on discussing a release of hostages only if Israel ends its Gaza offensive, while Israel expresses willingness to discuss only a temporary pause in the fighting. The situation remains highly volatile as both sides dig in their heels, signaling that the path to peace is fraught with challenges.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unwavering dedication to a relentless offensive against Hamas suggests that the war in the area will last for a long time and be very intense. The fact that the Egyptian plan has been flatly turned down and fighting has continued shows how complicated any possible ceasefire would be.
Both sides' firm positions and the fact that there is no agreement on diplomatic efforts point to a long time of uncertainty with no immediate end in sight. The area is still under the threat of a long and violent fight because of the ongoing tensions. At this point, peace doesn't seem likely.