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Hope for renewal of hostage negotiations, as video released

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Hostage video: A short video was released yesterday showing the kidnap of five female IDF spotters from the Nahal Oz base on October 7th.

  • The footage of the abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniella Gilboa, and Naama Levy was shown under the auspices of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum and with the permission of each of the women’s families.
  • The footage shows the five in clear distress, and some of them bloodied. Terrorist captors are heard saying “our brothers died because of you. We will shoot you all.”
  • The Forum described its content as a “damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages… The Israeli government must not waste even one more moment – it must return to the negotiating table today!”
  • Liri Albag’s father Eli, speaking after the video was screened, said “I want you to broadcast this footage every day at the start of the news… until somebody wakes up.”
  • “If this film doesn’t change the thinking, this is the last bullet we have, to tell them. What else do you want? What else can we do? If that doesn’t influence them…”
  • President Herzog said “the world must look at this cruel atrocity. Those who care about women’s rights must speak out. All those who believe in freedom must speak out, and do everything possible to bring all of the hostages home now.”
  • In further efforts to reach a hostage/ceasefire deal, the war cabinet has unanimously approved a mandate for Israel’s negotiating team to return to negotiations with Hamas. Hostage Coordinator Maj. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Alon is said to have drafted new negotiations terms, in a bid to bridge the gaps between Hamas’s demands and previous Israeli proposals. The government insists that any deal stop short of a firm commitment to end the war.

Context: The comments from family members indicate that the timing of the footage’s release is based on a desire to put pressure on the political echelon to secure the release of the remaining hostages.

  • Hostage families have been active in widespread protests urging the government to reach a deal with Hamas, even at the cost of ending the war.
  • Channel 12 reports that Defence Minister Gallant first showed the video to all war cabinet members in March. Once hostage negotiations stalled, the families asked that the footage be shown to all members of the wider security cabinet, too.
  • The channel reports that Cabinet Secretary Tzahi Braverman refused to allow the video to be shown in the security cabinet meeting room, citing technical reasons, and that only five security cabinet ministers chose to watch at their own initiative: Miri Regev, Gila Gamliel, Itamar Ben Gvir, Chili Tropper and Yisrael Katz.
  • Earlier this month, negotiations fell apart due to Hamas intransigence, including:
    • Its insistence on ending the war completely, which would perpetuate Hamas rule.
    • Its failure to confirm how many of the hostages were still alive, and whether Israel was negotiating for live captives or dead bodies.
    • Its insistence on being able to chose which Palestinian prisoners were to be released, without an Israeli veto.
    • The sequencing and length of a ceasefire, and at which stage hostages would be released.
  • Israel has previously released a 47-minute video of the October 7th massacres based on Hamas bodycam and cctv footage. Due to the horrific nature of the footage, it has restricted viewings to private audiences. Netanyahu is thought to be considering releasing a shortened version to a wider audience, in a bid to remind international audiences why this war began, and the brutal nature of Hamas.

Context of recognition: Israel has responded angrily to the decision of Ireland, Spain, and Norway to formally recognise a Palestinian state.

  • In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Katz said recognition “sent messages to the Palestinians and to the entire world: terror pays… After Hamas carried out the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust; after it committed horrific sex crimes that the world has seen, these countries have chosen to reward Hamas and Iran and recognize the Palestinian state. Israel will not take this lying down.”
  • The position of the UK and US has traditionally been that recognition should come not before, but as a result of, bilateral negotiations between the two sides aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • The Israeli view remains that, absent such a successful negotiation, and until the Palestinian national movement moves to explicitly recognise the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, recognition is both premature and a reward for terror and incitement.
  • The disparity of statements from European capitals changing nothing on the ground, could serve to foster further resentment and violence when Palestinians realise that recognition is not leading to a political process.
  • In recent months, with Israel’s consent Norway has served as a conduit through which Israel has transferred some of the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) –  about NIS 200-250 million (£42.8-53.5 million) per month. In the wake of Norwegian recognition, Finance Minister Smotrich said he would cease transferring the funds.
  • By moving to recognise, he said, “Norway… cannot be a partner to anything related to Judea and Samaria. I plan to halt money transfers to it and to demand all the money that has been transferred [so far] to be returned.”
  • If the Norwegian route is closed, the US will be keen to find an alternative arrangement to ensure that the PA does not collapse.

Gaza Strip: The IDF last night announced the deaths of three IDF soldiers killed in action in the northern Strip, while the IAF hit roughly 130 targets yesterday, including terrorist cells, military structures, observation posts, and additional terrorist infrastructure.

  • The IDF also reported that in Nuseirat, “following IDF and ISA intelligence, the IAF carried out a precise strike on a compound located inside an UNRWA school where Hamas terrorists –  including an anti-tank missile operative and a Nukhba terrorist – were operating.”
  • “The compound that was struck also contained weapons, including mortars and explosives, as evidenced by the numerous secondary explosions after the strike. The strike was carefully planned and carried out using precise munitions to mitigate any harm to civilians in the area.”
  • In Rafah, says the IDF, “soldiers located and destroyed multi-barrel rocket launchers that were ready to fire toward Israeli territory. The launch sites were located in eastern Rafah along the Philadelphi Corridor.”
  • “The troops are currently operating based on information regarding terror targets in the areas of ‘Brazil’ and ‘Shaboura’, while making every effort to prevent harm to civilians and after the civilian population in the area was evacuated. The activity began with a preliminary series of aerial strikes against Hamas terror targets in Rafah.”
  • In Jabaliya, in the northern Strip, the IDF continues close-quarters combat and yesterday eliminated a number of terror targets.
  • Also in the northern Strip, the past few days have seen targeted raids in the area of Beit Hanoun, designed to “eliminate terrorists, locate and strike terror infrastructure, below and above the ground.” It was in these operations that the three IDF troops fell.

Context: The IDF has found multiple instances of Hamas using UNRWA facilities for terrorist purposes. Only last week, 15 Hamas fighters were killed in another Israeli strike on a UNRWA school, also in Nuseirat.

  • The IDF continues to operate at various points across the Strip. Its return to areas vacated previously indicates the extent to which Hamas and other terror organisation remain able to regroup and continue to pose a threat.
  • Defence Minister Gallant continues to press the case for an Israeli vision for a post-Hamas Gaza. On a visit to Jabaliya yesterday, he told troops: “Your job is to strike at Hamas and to kill the terrorists. Our job is to reach a situation in which we replace the Hamas regime. While you are fighting and are doing your job, we will bring about us replacing the Hamas regime and finding it an alternative that isn’t Hamas.”

Looking ahead: Other countries may also recognise a Palestinian state, possibly including Malta, Slovenia, and Belgium.

  • Qatari media claims that Egyptian officials have made contact with both Israel and Hamas in a bid to restart negotiations.