The US is urging Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza to allow more time to negotiate the release of American hostages. A delay would also make it easier to get more humnitarian aid into the region.
According to The Times:
A war of words broke out over Hamas’s claim that Israel refused to accept the release of two elderly Israeli hostages on Friday, the same day the group released an American mother and daughter. Israel decried the claim as “propaganda”.
Hamas argued Israel was “not serious” about negotiating the release of hostages, drawing scorn from the office of Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, which said efforts were continuing, using Qatar as a mediator, to free all remaining captives.
The presence of the hostages, many of them dual nationals with passports from more than 40 countries, is a complicating factor in any Israeli ground assault aimed at annihilating the terrorist organisation Hamas.
Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defence minister, told troops gathered at the Gaza border last week that they would soon see the Palestinian terrotory “from inside”, suggesting the time of the expected ground invasion was nearing…
Israel’s government and military is not only under pressure from Washington to delay a ground attack but also from allies with nationals held hostage and from Israeli families whose loved ones are in the hands of Gaza-based militants.
Hamas has suggested that the hostages are held by different militant groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, complicating any negotiations for their release.
Senior American officials were also warning of the increasing likelihood of “significant escalation” in the Middle East as a result of the conflict.
Yesterday, the US deployed anti-ballistic missile defence systems in the region amid growing concerns about Hezbollah and Iran entering the conflict with Israel. Last week, Iran’s allied militia in Yemen, the Houthis, launched missiles and drones from Yemen towards Israel.
“We’re concerned about potential escalation,” Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said. “In fact, what we’re seeing is a prospect of significant escalation of attacks on our troops and our people throughout the region. Because of that, we’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that our troops are in a good position and they’re protected, and that we have the ability to respond.”