Amid the expanding ground operation which has seen Israeli tanks positioned outside of Gaza City and heavy firefights with Hamas militants erupt, Axios has revealed that the head of Mossad, David Barnea, made a secretive weekend trip to Qatar where he met with senior Qatari officials as part of mediation efforts to secure the release of Israeli and foreign hostages.
According to the latest update, over 235 are in Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) captivity, and Qatar remains the chief third party communicating with both Tel Aviv and Hamas. But Israeli officials have described that the ground offensive was launched after it became clear that the talks had borne no fruit. Barnea was in Doha as the ground invasion kicked off and progressed. According to the Israeli side’s conclusions reached as a result of the meetings, per Axios:
- Israel made the decision [to invade] in part because Hamas refused to give Israel via Qatar a list of names of all the hostages it is holding, the officials said.
- Hamas told the Qatari officials it is still in the process of finding out where all the hostages are located and their identities. But the feeling in Jerusalem was that this was just a tactic to buy time and prevent an Israeli ground operation, the Israeli officials said.
On Monday the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) made the unexpected announcement that one hostage, a military member who had been taken on Oct.7, has been rescued alive from the battlefield…
She is home.
PVT Megidish was abducted by Hamas on October 7. Tonight, she was rescued during ground operations.
Ori is now home with her family. pic.twitter.com/SZsqpvPQux
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 30, 2023
But also on Monday, Hamas released a new hostage video featuring three women. They’ve been identified by Israeli sources as Yelena Tropenov, Daniel Aloni and Rimon Kirsht. Netanyahu has denounced this as an example of “cruel Hamas-ISIS psychological warfare” – and Axios has detailed of the video:
- Aloni, who speaks in the video, blames Netanyahu for abandoning them when the attack happened and after they were taken hostage.
- “Free us now. Release their civilians. Release their prisoners. Release us now,” Aloni yells in the Hamas video.
New released video of Israeli hostages. pic.twitter.com/HbvmglYNE0
— Mohammed El-Kurd (@m7mdkurd) October 30, 2023
The White House has meanwhile reiterated Monday that “We do not believe that a ceasefire is the right answer right now,” according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “We do not support a ceasefire at this time.”
The US has also signalled it is winding down chartered evacuation flights of American citizens from Israel: US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller says Washington will cease operating charter flights for civilians looking to flee Israel during the war due to a lack of demand. “We have consistently seen the demand for our charter flights go down to where we’ve had a lot of flights going out with 50% capability,” Miller says. “I think that the number of seats that we have offered, we’ve had something like 25% of them actually be filled.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says it has killed dozens of Hamas militants, among them commanders, as it pushes deeper into Gaza, with tanks being seen Monday on the outskirts of Gaza City, blocking a key road linking the northern and southern halves of the Strip.