The latest developments from the Israel Hamas war.
Netanyahu says Israel will fight ‘to the very end’ as ‘accidental’ killing of hostages adds to concern over wartime conduct
Israel pressed ahead with its Gaza offensive on Sunday after a series of shootings, including of three hostages who were shirtless and waving a white flag, raised questions about its conduct in a weeks-old war that has brought unprecedented death and destruction to the coastal enclave.
Speaking at a press conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the killing of the three captives – branded a ‘mistake’ – “has broken my heart, it has broken the entire nation’s heart.”
He claimed the remaining hostages held by Hamas would soon return home, but the distance between victory and disaster is “tiny”.
Hitting back on growing international pressure to stop the fighting, Netanyahu said, “we are determined to continue all the way to the very end” until “there will be no authority that will continue training for terror” in Gaza.
“After we have eradicated Hamas and Gaza will be demilitarised under the control of Israel there will be no-one who will educate their children to annihilate Israel,” he added.
UK and Germany call for ceasefire – marking a significant attitude shift
The UK’s foreign secretary David Cameron and his counterpart in Germany, Annalena Baerbock, have called for a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza – joining an increasing list of global powers putting pressure on Israel to stop the fighting.
In a joint article published in Welt am Sonntag and The Sunday Times, they wrote: “too many civilians have been killed”, adding that a ceasefire “leading to a sustainable peace” was needed.
“The sooner it comes, the better. The need is urgent,” Baerbock and Cameron wrote.
The move is particularly significant for the UK, whose Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has previously only lent his support to “humanitarian pauses” in the conflict – but his government has so far stopped short of calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in United Nation votes.
‘Mistake’ shootings draw scrutiny from the top of Israel’s government
Military officials said on Saturday that the three hostages who were mistakenly shot by Israeli troops had tried to signal that they posed no harm. It was Israel’s first such acknowledgement of harming hostages in a war that it says is largely aimed at rescuing them.
The three hostages, all in their 20s, were killed Friday in the Gaza City area of Shijaiyah, where troops are engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas. An Israeli military official said the soldiers’ behaviour was against the army’s rules of engagement and was being investigated at the highest level.
Israel says it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians and accuses Hamas of using them as human shields. But Palestinians and rights groups have repeatedly accused Israeli forces of recklessly endangering civilians and firing on those who do not threaten them, both in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, which has seen a surge of violence since the start of the war.
Israel on Friday said it was opening a military police investigation into the killing of two Palestinians in the West Bank after an Israeli rights group posted videos that appeared to show troops killing the men – one who was incapacitated and the second unarmed – during a raid.
Anger over the mistaken killing of the hostages, though, is likely to ramp up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to renew Qatar-mediated negotiations with Hamas over swapping more of the remaining captives for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Hamas has said there will be no further hostage releases until the war ends, and that it will demand the release of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners, including high-profile militants.
Hamas released over 100 of more than 240 hostages captured on 7 October in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners during a brief cease-fire in November. Nearly all freed on both sides were women and minors. Israel has successfully rescued one hostage.