While mediators from Qatar, Egypt and the United States in Paris continue to seek a ceasefire and the release of hostages in the Gaza war, the Israeli army tirelessly continues to fight the Islamist Hamas. Israel “will increase military pressure until the last moment, because only negotiations under fire will yield results,” Israeli TV Channel 12 quoted an Israeli security source as saying.

“There is optimism, but an agreement is not imminent,” said an unnamed government official. Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Burbock Meanwhile, he called on Israel and Hamas for an early ceasefire. “We need a humanitarian pause now so that the hostages can be released and humanitarian aid can get into Gaza,” the Green politician said on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Israel in negotiations: agreement not imminent

A new round of indirect talks on a ceasefire in the war in the Gaza Strip began in Paris and will continue this weekend, according to media reports. An Israeli delegation led by Mossad foreign intelligence chief David Barney met with representatives of Egypt, Qatar and the United States, who are acting as mediators in negotiations with Hamas. Israel and Hamas are not negotiating directly.

Hamas has reportedly softened some of its demands. That’s why they are now demanding the release of only a few dozen Palestinian prisoners in exchange for each Israeli hostage, rather than hundreds as before, Channel 12 reported.

According to the broadcaster, the Israeli delegation in Paris was said to have been authorized by its government to show some flexibility in its positions. However, Israel continues to categorically reject Hamas’ demands for a permanent ceasefire and end to the war, the report said. “We are seeking to create a basic structure with clear criteria for what we discuss and what we do not discuss,” the broadcaster quoted a government official as saying.

“An agreement is not imminent. The goal is to achieve it before the start of Ramadan.” The Muslim month of fasting begins around March 10th. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military minister, again warned Hamas of a possible expansion of the operation into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Gantz: Reach Hamas everywhere, including in Rafah

Israel is now preparing a controversial military offensive on the city bordering Egypt to, according to its own claims, destroy the remaining Hamas battalions there and free the alleged hostages. However, the government has not yet issued an operational order.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian internally displaced persons sought protection in the city. In previous statements, Gantz has said an offensive in Rafah itself could begin in Ramadan if an agreement is not reached by then to release more than 130 hostages held by Hamas. “We will reach every place where Hamas terrorists are,” the Israeli minister said in a video message.

Burbock: The humanitarian situation is catastrophic

Federal Foreign Minister Baerbock said in New York that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip “is so catastrophic that almost no aid is currently being distributed.” During the humanitarian ceasefire, “humanitarian organizations will finally be able to resume their work in the Gaza Strip.”

The death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to 29,514 killed and 69,616 wounded since the war began nearly five months ago, according to the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry. The figures, which do not differentiate between fighters and civilians, cannot be independently verified.

The war was triggered by the massacre carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups in Israel on October 7 last year. They killed more than 1,200 people and kidnapped another 250 to the Gaza Strip. Israel responded with massive air strikes and ground offensives.

Report: Hamas is far from defeated

By its own assessment, the Israeli army has dealt Hamas a serious blow since the war began nearly five months ago, killing commanders, destroying tunnels and confiscating weapons, the New York Times reports. However, according to current and former Israeli security officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s goal of destroying Hamas is still a long way off.

“Is it possible that this mission will be left to my children? The answer is yes,” the newspaper quotes an Israeli military intelligence representative as saying. According to Israeli analysts, during the recent fighting Hamas avoided direct clashes with Israeli units, which Israel regarded as a sign of weakness, the newspaper writes.

Other experts, however, believe Hamas has a reason for this strategy: Hamas is convinced that it will mean victory if a significant portion of its military power survives the war.

Israel on the situation in Lebanon

Meanwhile, the situation on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon is also deteriorating. The Israeli airstrike killed three people, according to the Hezbollah militia. A medical center and ambulances were damaged the day before, Shiite militias said. However, the Israeli army said the attack was aimed at a Hezbollah military facility.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz issued a clear warning to Iran-backed militias. “We won’t wait long for a diplomatic solution in the north,” Katz wrote on Platform X (formerly Twitter). The Israeli Navy conducted “extensive” exercises last week, according to the Times of Israel. The military is preparing for a possible war, writes an Israeli newspaper.

What’s important today

In Paris, international mediators will continue their efforts to achieve a ceasefire and release the hostages. The humanitarian situation of the Palestinian civilian population is dire. Added to this are concerns in Rafah about an impending Israeli ground offensive. (dpa/t

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