Gaza: The war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas has entered its third week, with no sign of a ceasefire. Hamas said on Monday that more than 5,000 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and shelling on the Gaza Strip since October 7, when it launched a surprise attack on Israel and abducted hundreds of people. Israel has denied the casualty figures and accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.
In a rare gesture of goodwill, Hamas announced that it had released two elderly Israeli women who were among the hostages taken to Gaza during the attack. Hamas said in a statement that Nurit Cooper, 80, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 78, were freed on humanitarian grounds after mediation by Qatar and Egypt. The statement said the women were in poor health and needed medical attention. Israeli media reported that the women were transferred to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, where they were received by Israeli officials.
Hamas said it still holds more than 200 hostages in “safe places and tunnels” within Gaza, including 20 children and several over-60s. Hamas has demanded that Israel lift its blockade on Gaza and release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages. Israel has rejected the demands and vowed to continue its military campaign until Hamas is defeated.
Israeli government spokesperson Ilon Levi said that one thing is clear: “After the end of this war, the Gaza Strip will not be ruled by Hamas.” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said the next phase of the war would be a “deadly, multi-pronged attack from air, sea, and land.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of his top generals and his war cabinet to assess the escalating conflict.
Meanwhile, international efforts to end the violence have intensified. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced £20 million for humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. He also said that Britain had concluded that the explosion at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on October 17, which killed hundreds of people, was most likely caused by a misfired missile or part of it fired from Gaza towards Israel. Last week, the US government also said it did not believe Israel was responsible for the attack.