In exchange for the release of the hostages, Hamas demands an end to the war and the release of terrorists captured on Oct. 7.
The State of Israel will retain full security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River after it achieves its objectives of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip and returning the hostages held there, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed in a statement on Sunday night.
The war continues “on all fronts and in all sectors,” stated Netanyahu. “We grant no immunity to any terrorist—neither in Gaza, nor in Lebanon, Syria, or anywhere else. Anyone who attempts to harm us—we strike back.”
“Regarding our hostages, we have brought back 110 of them so far, and we are committed to bringing them all back. This is one of the war’s objectives, and military pressure is an essential condition for its completion,” he continued.
Netanyahu said he “outright rejects the Hamas monsters’ terms of surrender. In exchange for the release of our hostages, Hamas demands the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the Nukhba murderers and rapists, and leaving Hamas intact.”
“If we agree to this, our soldiers have fallen in vain. If we agree to this, we will not be able to guarantee the security of our citizens. We will not be able to return the evacuees safely to their homes, and the next Oct. 7 will only be a matter of time,” the premier charged.
Alluding to reports he had not ruled out a Palestinian state during a call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday, Netanyahu said, “I conveyed these points to President Biden in our conversation over the weekend. I greatly appreciate the U.S.’s support for Israel, and I expressed this to the president. Nevertheless, I stand firm on our vital interests.”
Hamas is demanding a total end to the war in a deal to release the hostages remaining in Gaza, Yedioth Ahronoth reported over the weekend, citing senior Israeli officials. Additionally, the terror group is demanding Israel’s complete withdrawal of its forces from Gaza and international guarantees that it will be allowed to remain in power in the Strip.
According to the IDF, 136 hostages are still being held in Gaza out of 240 taken during the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, although many are believed to be dead. Israeli forces on Saturday found a massive tunnel underneath Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, where around 20 hostages had been held.
On Sunday evening, the IDF published additional video footage of the extensive tunnel network underneath the Hamas stronghold.
In separate remarks on Sunday evening, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that Israeli troops are still operating “with force” in the Khan Yunis area, adding that the military operation there “will expand.”
“The mushroom clouds from the tanks, artillery, and Air Force planes will continue to cover the skies of Gaza until we achieve our goals, chief among them the dismantling of Hamas and the return of the hostages to their homes,” said Gallant following a flight over Gaza.
On Jan. 15, Gallant called a press conference to signal the impending end to heavy combat in southern and northern Gaza. “The intensive maneuvering phase in the north of the Gaza Strip has ended, and in the south, it will also end soon,” the defense minister told reporters.
Gallant’s announcement came a day after the 36th Division—the IDF’s largest regular-service armored division, which includes the Golani Infantry Brigade—left Gaza for rest and training. The IDF subsequently announced that the undercover counterterror Duvdevan Unit would likewise leave and redeploy to its regular location in Judea and Samaria.
At this stage, three divisions remain in Gaza, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed during a press briefing on Wednesday night.
Soldiers of the IDF’s Yiftah Brigade operating in the Al-Maghazi camp in central Gaza raided dozens of Hamas terror facilities embedded in civilian infrastructure, the military said in a statement on Sunday.
During the operation, Hamas terrorists fired an RPG at one of the unit’s tanks, the IDF said. Troops spotted the terror squad behind the attack, returned fire, and requested an airstrike.
Armored Corps and Combat Engineering forces unearthed a weapons production site at the camp. A loaded rocket launcher ready to fire toward Israeli territory was located in a nearby olive grove.
Approximately 15 million shekels ($4 million) seized by Israeli forces from Hamas offices in Gaza will be deposited in the state coffers, the Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
About $1 million in Egyptian, Jordanian and Iraqi currency will also be transferred. Since the beginning of the war three months ago, more than 20 million shekels ($5.3 million) have been confiscated, counted and transferred to the Defense Ministry’s finance division.
The IDF on Sunday also announced the death of Staff Sgt. Shay Levinson, 19, from Givat Avni in northern Israel. Levinson, who served in the 77th “Oz” Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade, was murdered on Oct. 7 and his body was seized by Hamas, the military said after the military rabbinate evaluated intelligence information.
Image: IDF soldiers conduct operations against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Jan. 21, 2024. Credit: IDF.