Media reports Israel will continue military operations in Gaza despite hostage negotiations

The IDF plans to enter Rafah and destroy Hamas battalions there regardless of hostage negotiations, according to an Israeli source.

The release of Israeli hostages being held captive by Hamas militants will have no effect on the IDF’s plans in Gaza, according to journalist Suleiman Maswadeh, who on Saturday cited an anonymous “political source” within the Israeli government. During last year’s October 7 attack on Israeli territories near Gaza, Hamas militants killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage. Since then, a number of the captives have been released but around 130 are still being held in the Palestinian enclave. Writing on his X account, Maswadeh cited his source as stating that “contrary to publications, Israel will under no circumstances agree to the end of the war as part of an agreement to release our abductees.” Furthermore, the unnamed official claimed that the Jewish state’s “political echelon” has decided that “the IDF will enter Rafah and destroy the remaining Hamas battalions there – whether or not there will be a temporary respite for the release of our hostage.” The city of Rafah, located in southern Gaza near the border with Egypt, is currently home to an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians who have fled the northern reaches of the enclave. Aside from carrying out repeated airstrikes against what Israel claims are Hamas targets within the city, the Israeli government has also threatened to launch a ground invasion of the area, despite objections from the US and UN.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s political rival and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, has urged “official sources and all other decision-makers” to “act with restraint” and to wait for official updates, and “not to become hysterical due to political reasons.” At the same time, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz had previously promised to “suspend the operation” in exchange for the release of the captives. Last week, Israel officially sent Hamas a ceasefire proposal which suggests a temporary cessation of hostilities to facilitate an exchange of several dozen hostages for Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails. The proposal has been described as “extraordinarily generous” by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has urged Hamas to “decide quickly” and “make the right decision.” Hamas, meanwhile, has demanded a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from the besieged Palestinian enclave.