The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.
The United States national security adviser and the Palestinian president have met to discuss postwar arrangements for Gaza.
Jake Sullivan, speaking with President Mahmoud Abbas, said it wouldn’t be “fair” that Israel occupied Gaza in the long term
Various proposals, including the reactivation of Palestinian security forces driven out by Hamas in its 2007 takeover of the territory, were floated.
They are the first specific indicators of Washington’s vision for security arrangements in Gaza if Israel achieves its US-backed objective to end Hamas control of the besieged enclave.
Any role for Palestinian security forces in Gaza is bound to elicit strong opposition from Israel, which seeks to maintain an open-ended security presence there and says it won’t allow a postwar foothold for the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, a West Bank-based autonomy government led by President Abbas.
On Thursday, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, spoke to Israeli leaders about a timetable for winding down the intense combat phase of the war.
The offensive, triggered by the unprecedented 7th October Hamas attack on Israel, has flattened much of northern Gaza and driven 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes. Displaced people have squeezed into shelters mainly in the south in a spiralling humanitarian crisis.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has shown unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but the White House continues to offer wholehearted support for Israel with weapons shipments and diplomatic backing.
“I want them to be focused on how to save civilian lives,” Biden said on Thursday when asked if he wants Israel to scale down its operations by the end of the month. “Not stop going after Hamas, but be more careful.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Sullivan talked with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu about moving to “lower intensity operations” sometime “in the near future.”
Can Israel defeat Hamas without more significant civilian casualties?
A deadly Hamas ambush on Israeli troops in Gaza City this week showed the group’s resilience and called into question whether Israel can defeat it without wiping out the entire territory.
Israel’s air and ground assault over the past 10 weeks has killed more than 18,700 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. Thousands more are missing and feared dead beneath the rubble.
The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Its latest count did not specify how many were women and minors, but they have consistently made up around two-thirds of the dead in previous tallies.
On Friday morning, communications services still appeared to be down across Gaza. The Palestinian telecommunications provider Paltel had announced Thursday evening that services were cut off due to ongoing fighting.
Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling continued overnight and into Friday, including in the city of Rafah, part of the shrinking areas of tiny, densely populated Gaza to which Palestinian civilians had been told by Israel to evacuate. At last one person was killed in an airstrike early Friday, according to an Associated Press journalist who saw the body arriving at a local hospital.
Israelis remain strongly supportive of the war and see it as necessary to prevent a repeat of 7th October, when Palestinian militants attacked communities across southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostage. A total of 116 soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive, which began on 27 October.
Remains of Franco-Israeli hostage Elya Toledano recovered in Gaza
The Israeli army announced on Friday that it had recovered from the Gaza Strip and brought back to Israel the remains of Franco-Israeli Elya Toledano, who had been taken hostage by Hamas on 7th October.
Elya Toledano was kidnapped from the Tribe of Nova music festival in which he was participating with his friend Mia Shem, a Franco-Israeli who was released as part of a truce agreement at the end of November.
“During the Gaza operation, the body of hostage Elya Toledano (28) was recovered by army special forces and repatriated to Israel,” the Israeli army said in a press release, specifying that the forensic doctors had correctly identified the remains.
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, expressed on X her “immense sorrow” upon the announcement of the death of Elya Toledano. “We share the pain of his family and loved ones. The release of all the hostages is our priority,” she added.
Families of hostages had indicated in recent weeks that they were unaware of the fate of Elya Toledano, namely whether or not he was still alive.
“The Israeli army presents its sincere condolences to the family,” they added in a statement, assuring that the man’s relatives had been informed of the discovery of his body before this public statement.