Gaza ceasefire talks collapse as Israel accuses Hamas of making ‘delusional’ demands

Israeli air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians at both ends of the Gaza Strip overnight

Hopes of a new Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal have been dashed following a Hamas announcement that it has not changed the position it presented in talks 10 days ago.

The militant group said Israel’s response failed to meet any of its demands for a return of hostages seized in its attack of October 7th, which triggered an Israeli war on Gaza that has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the coastal enclave. Hamas is seeking a full ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced persons to their homes and a serious prisoner exchange deal.

In response, Israel recalled its negotiating team from Qatar, accusing Hamas of presenting “delusional” demands for a hostage deal.

The office of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahudescribed Hamas’s announcement as regrettable proof of the damage that had been caused by Monday’s United Nations Security Council resolution, which called for an immediate ceasefire without any linkage to the release of the hostages.


“Hamas has rejected every American compromise proposal and has reiterated its extreme demands, leaving the Hamas regime intact so that it might repeat, time and again, the October 7th massacre, as it has pledged to do,” said the statement, stressing that Israel would continue to act to achieve all of the war’s objectives until Hamas no longer posed a threat to Israel.

Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th. It believes 134 hostagesremain in Hamas captivity, though it is not known how many are still alive.

Israeli air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians at both ends of the Gaza Strip overnight, hitting the area around Al Shifa hospital in the north and Rafah on the southern edge.

In the south, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering in Rafah against the border fence with Egypt, health authorities said 18 people including eight children were killed in a strike on the Abu Nqaira family home.

Blankets and children’s clothes were strewn amid the rubble on Tuesday morning, where relatives picked through the debris to retrieve belongings. Outside, a pillar of reinforced concrete had crushed a burnt-out car. Family members wept over corpses laid out at a nearby hospital morgue.

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin, at the start of a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon on Tuesday, said it was a moral and strategic imperative to protect Palestinian civilians, calling the situation in Gaza a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Hamas has called on Western countries to end airdrops of aid into Gaza, saying the delivery method was “offensive, wrong, inappropriate and useless”. It claimed that 18 people died on Monday after swimming in the Mediterranean Sea to try to retrieve packages airdropped into the sea.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations OCHE humanitarian office, said Israel’s decision not to allow the Unrwa refugee agency to deliver food to the northern Gaza Strip must be revoked.

Saying people there were facing a “cruel death by famine”, he told a UN briefing on Tuesday: “You cannot claim to adhere to these international provisions of law when you block Unrwa food convoys.”

Released hostage Amit Soussana (40), who was freed in November, told the New York Times she was sexually assaulted and attacked at gunpoint by her Hamas captor during her captivity in Gaza.

Fighting on the Israeli-Lebanese border escalated on Tuesday. Hizbullah fired some 50 rockets into northern Israel, including at the strategic Israeli air force radar base on Mount Meron in the Galilee. Israel hit Hizbullah targets in the Baalbek area, more than 100km north of the Israeli border, the deepest Israeli strikes into Lebanon since the start of the war.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem