On December 2, the Mossad spy agency said that the Israeli negotiating team that engaged in talks with the Palestinian Hamas Movement in Qatar had been ordered home with talks on extending a ceasefire reaching a “dead end.”
“Due to the dead end in negotiations, and following instructions from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mossad head David Barnea ordered the negotiating team in Doha to return home,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office issued on behalf of the agency.
“The Hamas terror group did not fulfill its obligations under the agreement that included releasing all the women and children that were on the list provided to Hamas that had authorized it,” the statement explained.
“The head of Mossad thanks the head of the CIA, Egypt’s intelligence minister, the prime minister of Qatar for their partnership and the tremendous mediation efforts that led to the release of 84 women and children from Gaza, in addition to 24 foreign nationals,” it added.
The ceasefire in Gaza, which was brokered by the United States, Egypt and Qatar, started on November 24 and ended on December 1 after Israel and Hamas failed to reach an agreement to further extend it.
The last week-long truce saw 105 hostages being released by Hamas from Gaza, including 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino.
At least 136 hostages, including 114 men, 20 women and two children, are still being held by Hamas in the Strip. The vast majority of the hostages, 125, are Israeli. The other 11 are foreign nationals, including eight from Thailand.
The Mossad statement was surprising. Earlier, Reuters reported that an Israeli delegation visited Qatar in the morning for talks aimed at a new ceasefire.
According to the news agency, the talks examined the possibility of Hamas releasing additional hostages, possibly elderly men, in exchange for further security prisoners being released by Israel and a new halt in fighting. The talks might have been a last ditch effort.
Israel carried out hundreds of strikes on Gaza and ordered the displacement of civilians from several areas in the Strip’s north and south after the end of the ceasefire. Recent developments, including the Mossad’s statement, indicate that Netanyahu is planning to escalate the war, which has already claimed the lives of more than 15,000 Palestinians.