Killing of hostages is tragic, but it can hardly stop Israel’s operation in Gaza: expert
Published: Dec 17, 2023 11:34 PM

Smoke billows over the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on December 17, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. Photo: AFP

Smoke billows over the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on December 17, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. Photo: AFP

After Israeli forces mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza, the head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad met Qatar’s prime minister in Oslo to discuss the release of the remaining hostages, media reported, as some observers believe it could signal hope for another temporary cease-fire to enable swapping Hamas-held hostages for Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners. 

The three Israeli hostages killed by Israeli forces Friday night were shot after they emerged shirtless from a building in northern Gaza, holding up a stick with a white cloth on it, Israeli military officials said Saturday, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported. The decision by two Israeli soldiers to open fire violated the military’s rules of engagement, Herzi Halevi, an Israeli senior military officer, said late on Saturday.

The new details about the incident emerged as Israeli and Qatari officials met in Norway on Saturday in order to revive talks about the release of hostages held in Gaza in return for a cease-fire and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, according to people familiar with the matter, the WSJ reported on Saturday.

Some observers said this could be a chance for another exchange of hostages and prisoners, and allow more humanitarian aid to get into the Gaza, and it could even transform into a sustained cease-fire. 

Apart from the hostage issue, the US is also pressuring Israel. US President Joe Biden said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must change tack, warning that Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza risked leaving the country isolated, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

Offering his harshest criticism of the Israeli prime minister’s far-right coalition since the Jewish state began its military offensive in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack, the US president said Israel was “starting to lose… support” around the world.

The hostage deaths have intensified pressure on Netanyahu's government to take new steps to free the 129 remaining hostages. Israel’s war cabinet was set to meet later on Saturday to discuss whether to officially resume hostage talks with mediators, the people said. In Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities, protesters called on Saturday night for new efforts to secure the hostages’ release and for Netanyahu to step down, the WSJ reported.

However, the hostage issue might not be able to overtake Israel’s claimed mission of eliminating Hamas in Gaza, which means taking control of the region and rebuilding it based on Israel’s preferences, said some experts.

Wang Jin, an associate professor at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies of Northwest University, told the Global Times on Sunday that “although the media reported that the Netanyahu is facing pressure, the hostage issue has never been the top priority. Most Israeli people care more about ending the conflict once and for all by not giving Hamas any breathing space.”