The New York Times reports Israel attacked the largest hospital in Gaza in hopes the raid would cause Hamas to relent and accept a hostage deal on terms proposed by Tel Aviv. An Israeli official said that if Hamas accepts the agreement, Tel Aviv will resume the war in Gaza after the exchange of captives.
The outlet reported, “Israel believes that Wednesday’s raid on Al-Shifa Hospital will put pressure on Hamas to finish a deal to trade dozens of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners, according to two senior Israeli officials.” It adds, “Israel believes that by taking Shifa, which it says Hamas uses as a military command center and its patients as human shields, the militant group is deprived of a key asset and more inclined to trade hostages, according to officials.”
Tel Aviv has failed to prove its claims the Shifa hospital was being used as headquarters for Hamas or a holding area for hostages. The Israeli raid on the hospital uncovered a few rifles and uniforms.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eagerness to negotiate a hostage release is a change in course for Tel Aviv. VICE News reports that it spoke with officials who said that Netanyahu initially delayed talks until after it was able to invade Gaza with ground forces. “It’s clear the Israelis wanted a ground offensive underway before considering this proposal, which has been on the table since the first days of the conflict,” a regional diplomat involved in the talks told VICE. “The outline of a deal has not changed from the start of the talks but the Israelis in the past few days do appear more receptive.”
Then, the deal was further postponed because the Israeli prime minister believed he could score a political win by forcing Hamas to make a deal, according to a NATO official. “There’s been a willingness to consider it [by Israel] that had not been seen previously. Netanyahu can now look at the Israeli public and tell them his firm action with the ground offensive is what freed some hostages.” The official continued, “[Netanyahu] sees a short-term political gain to arguing the offensive forced Hamas into concessions but he doesn’t seem to fear explaining how hostages might have died in air strikes while the same deal was available.”
The agreement, currently under mediation through Qatar, would see Hamas release captives taken on October 7 and Israel release Palestinians held in prisons. The release of children and women will be prioritized.
Additionally, there would be a three or five-day pause in fighting to allow the agreement to unfold. During the halt in fighting, Israel will allow aid into Gaza. Axios reports that Israeli negotiators have pressed to decrease the length of any pause in the war.
Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz explained even if Tel Aviv agrees to a short pause to military operations in Gaza, it plans to settle the war with its military. “Even if we are required to pause fighting in order to return our hostages, there will be no stopping the combat and the war until we achieve our goals,” he said.
Tel Aviv’s military operation in Gaza has killed at least 11,000 people, including over 4,500 children. The UN reports that 1.5 million Palestinians are now displaced. So Far, Israeli military operations have been focused on the northern half of the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, Tel Aviv dropped leaflets over a city in the southern half of the besieged enclave, instructing civilians to flee. The evacuation order suggests Israel plans to expand its operation in southern Gaza.
This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.