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Negotiations for hostages 'stalled' after Hamas demands Israel to allow fuel shipments in Gaza

At least 239 people, including children, have been captured and held hostage by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Hamas' demand for fuel comes as Palestinians face a humanitarian crisis with relentless bombardment and diminishing essential supplies.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: October 30, 2023 19:22 IST
Beds displayed in Jerusalem to symbolise those captured by
Image Source : AP Beds displayed in Jerusalem to symbolise those captured by Hamas militants

Israel-Hamas war: Talks to free at least 239 hostages held by militants of the Palestine-based militant group Hamas reportedly broke down after the group demanded Israel to allow fuel deliveries in besieged Gaza and declined to guarantee the release of foreign captives, NBC News reported.

A former US official said, "Hamas has been insistent on receiving fuel. The Israel and U.S. side, plus other countries, want a large batch of their citizens released." The official, along with an Israeli official and a diplomat with information on the matter said discussions broke down on Friday before Israel launched the second stage of operations.

“Talks were going very well on Thursday, and negotiators were hopeful a deal could be reached over the weekend. But differences emerged early Friday, which led to talks stalling," said the diplomat, who spoke to NBC on the condition of anonymity.

Hostages in Gaza

According to Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy, Hamas is holding at least 239 hostages captive, including 33 children under the age of 10 and 10 children under the age of 5.  "There are children inside the Gaza Strip. Their parents were murdered in front of them. They were ripped out of their parents' arms, and now they're being held in a dark tunnel in Gaza," he said.

Around half of the hostages are believed to be citizens from as many as 25 foreign countries, including an estimated 54 Thais, 15 Argentines, 12 Americans, 12 Germans, six French and six Russians. Qatar mediated negotiations that resulted in the release of four hostages - two Americans and two elderly women. Israel says that Hamas released them due to pressure.

However, the pressure is building on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as family members of the hostages call for decisive action for the safe return of their loved ones. The threat of a looming ground attack in the Gaza Strip has further raised concerns about their safety. 

Israeli officials accused Hamas of dragging out the negotiations to delay a ground invasion. "I suggest do not pay attention to the rumours. This is psychological terror by Hamas," said Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari.

The Times of Israel reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a news conference Saturday night that an exchange of all Palestinians jailed for security offenses for the captives held in Gaza was among the options Israel is considering.

Humanitarian situation in Gaza

As Israel ramped up bombardment of the Gaza Strip, over 8,000 Palestinians were killed while Israeli troops and armour pushed deeper into northern and central Gaza on Monday. 

The United Nations and medical staff warned that airstrikes are hitting closer to hospitals where tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter alongside thousands of wounded.

The Israeli advances put their forces on both sides of Gaza City and the surrounding areas of northern Gaza, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “second stage” of the war ignited by Hamas' brutal October 7 incursion.

On Sunday, thousands of people broke into aid workhouses in the beleaguered Gaza Strip to loot flour and basic hygiene products as the territory ran out of essential supplies in the midst of heavy Israeli bombardment. This marks the growing frustration among Palestinians and the breakdown of public order three weeks into the war between Israel and Hamas that has been going on for more than three weeks. 

UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) Gaza director Thomas White said that the breakdown of public order was a "worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza, and that people are scared, frustrated and desperate."

Israel has allowed only a small trickle of aid to enter from Egypt, some of which was stored in one of the warehouses that was broken into, UNRWA said. Fuel has become a critically-needed source after aid organisation ran out, relying on donations from residents.

Additionally, residents said that Israeli airstrikes overnight hit areas near Gaza's largest hospital Shifa and blocked many roads leading to it. Israel accuses Hamas of having a secret command post beneath the hospital, without providing much evidence.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Israel: German tourist Shani Louk, whose body was paraded naked by Hamas, confirmed dead

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