Israel has sent its negotiating team in Qatar home, after Friday morning marked the end of the truce and its collapse and return to fighting in the Gaza Strip. Aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip has continued through Saturday.
Primarily the negotiating team was made up of the Mossad intelligence agency, and they were ordered home after reaching a “dead end” on the possibility of extending the truce.
“Due to the dead end in negotiations, and following instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad head David Barnea ordered the negotiating team in Doha to return home,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said. Israeli media has pointed to the extreme rarity of Netanyahu’s office issuing a statement on behalf of the spy agency.
“The Hamas terror group did not fulfill its obligations under the agreement that included releasing all the women and children that were on the list provided to Hamas that had authorized it,” the statement added. Israeli and US officials have also complained that Hamas was trying to separate families (mothers from children) in order to draw out the process and create more leverage.
The statement did congratulate the team on being able to secure the releasee of 84 women and children, along with 24 foreign nationals – most of them Thai workers kidnapped from southern Israeli settlements on Oct.7. The ceasefire had held for one week.
“The head of the Mossad thanks the head of the CIA, the Egyptian Minister of Intelligence and the Prime Minister of Qatar for their partnership in the tremendous mediation efforts that led to the release of 84 children and women from the Gaza Strip in addition to 24 foreign citizens,” the prime minister’s office said on his behalf.
A mere couple hours before the confirmation that the Mossad team had been sent home, a Reuters report said both the Israeli and Hamas sides were “considering new parameters for the release of hostages and the truce since before it collapsed.”
Israel says there are still 137 hostages in Hamas captivity, which also includes some Americans. In total 110 were returned home over the past week, with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners released as part of the swap.
Israel’s airstrikes have ramped up in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, where most civilians are now concentrated…
⚡️Hamad Residential complex in the city of Khan Yunis was bombed pic.twitter.com/CGFa2rPBOJ
— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) December 2, 2023
This impasse and total breakdown in negotiations has resulted in French President Emmanuel Macron declaring that he is en route to Doha to help revive ceasefire talks. He made the announcement from the COP28 climate summit in Dubai:
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday that France was “very concerned” by the resumption of violence in Gaza and that he was heading to Qatar to help “engage a new truce ahead of a cease-fire”.
Macron also told a press conference at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai that the situation required the doubling down on efforts to obtain a “lasting cease fire” and the freeing of all hostages.
He said this initiative of his is chiefly out of concern that this war, already with an immense and still soaring death toll, could drag on for years. Macron warned that Israel pursuing the “total destruction of Hamas” means the “war will last 10 years”.
This week an Israeli official was quoted in the Financial Times as saying, “This will be a very long war… We’re currently not near halfway to achieving our objectives.”