Israel refuses to negotiate on release of hostages, Hamas says

Militant groups says it is prepared for a possible Israeli ground invasion and will fight for its people and land

Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, who were held hostages by Palestinian Hamas militants, are released by the militants. Reuters
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Hamas has accused Israel of refusing to negotiate on the release of hostages that the Palestinian militant group took when it carried out a deadly assault on Israeli territory on October 7.

It comes as Israel continues to launch deadly retaliatory strikes on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

Hamas spokesman Hazim Qasim told The National the Israelis were being "stubborn" about discussing the hostages.

“The [Israeli] occupation is making this difficult, they don’t care about the fate or what happens to the hostages, they are not a priority for Israel,” he said.

Hamas has released four out of the 220 kidnapped Israelis and talks between the two sides continued on Wednesday. Qatar and Egypt helped broker the release of two women on Monday night.

Israel said on Wednesday the direct cost of the war is about one billion shekels ($246 million) a day and it is now preparing for a possible ground invasion into the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said that he did not yet have an assessment of the indirect costs on an economy partly paralysed by the mass mobilisation of military reservists and extensive Palestinian rocket salvoes.

Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on October 7 and killed over 1,400 people and kidnapped 220 others in the attack. About 300 of the dead were security forces, the rest civilians.

As a response, Israel declared a war and began bombarding Gaza with air strikes killing nearly 6,000 Palestinians, also mostly civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Prime Minister Netanyahu has roped in political rivals to form a war cabinet.

The government has called up more than 350,000 Israeli reservists and lined up thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles along the Gaza border, in preparation for an expected ground offensive.

Mr Qasim said Hamas has no other choice but to defend it self from an Israeli ground invasion.

“We have great confidence that we will deter this attack despite the Israeli mobilisation of forces to protect our land and people,” he said.

“We have a right and just cause and we are confident that the occupation is going to fail in achieving their goals,” he said.

In response to Mr Qasim's comments the Arabic-language spokesman for the Israeli military, Avichay Adraee, told The National that negotiations were continuing behind closed doors.

“The Israeli army does not negotiate with terrorists directly, the ones who are controlling the hostage talks are part of the national security directorate of the war cabinet,” he said.

Mr Adraee said Israel holds Hamas responsible for the safety of the hostages.

“We have received clear instructions that we are in a state war and the war is continuing. We hold the safety of the hostages fully at the hands of the Hamas terrorist group,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu has demanded the unconditional release of all hostages held in Gaza as Israeli warplanes increase their attacks across the strip on daily basis.

Additional reporting by Ismaeel Naar.

Updated: October 25, 2023, 1:16 PM