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Israel Firm: Gaza Offensive Continues, No Pause for Hostage Talks with Hamas

Israel restated its refusal on Wednesday to halt its offensive in Gaza in exchange for restarting talks on releasing hostages with Hamas, following a proposed truce mediated by Qatar with U.S. backing.

Efforts to end the nearly eight-month-long conflict have stalled due to Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas as a governing and military entity, while Hamas shows no intention of stepping down and demands an end to the Israeli offensive.

Israeli media reported Defense Minister Gallant’s assertion that negotiations with Hamas would only occur amidst ongoing hostilities, following his inspection of the Gaza front.

CIA Director William Burns was reported to be discussing a ceasefire with Qatar’s Prime Minister, amid hopes that talks involving the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt could lead to a deal involving the release of hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

The White House indicated it awaited Hamas’s response to a ceasefire proposal by President Biden, which Qatar suggested was closer to both sides’ positions.

Hamas responded positively to the proposal but insisted on a clear commitment from Israel to a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal from Gaza, a condition Israel rejects until Hamas is neutralized.

The Hamas-allied Islamic Jihad delegation arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators on ending the conflict and providing aid.

Fighting continued in Rafah, where Israeli forces conducted operations to eliminate remaining Hamas units. The UNRWA called for a ceasefire, highlighting the war’s devastating impact on Palestinian lives and the environment.

Israel launched its offensive in October after militants killed civilians and took hostages, resulting in casualties on both sides. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives and caused extensive damage in Gaza.

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