Israel appears to soften stance as Gaza truce hangs in balance

Hamas official urges Palestinians across the Middle East to ‘turn every day into a day of clashes’ during Ramadan

With a Gaza truce hanging in the balance, Israel appears to have softened its position regarding the release of hostages.

Israel has clarified that it wants Hamas to supply a definitive number of hostages it is prepared to release rather than a complete list of names before it will resume negotiations.

The apparent change in Israel’s approach came as some Israeli officials speculated that Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was seeking “to set fire to the ground and to cause bloodshed during Ramadan”. The Muslim fasting month begins on Sunday and is the target date set by mediators for a new ceasefire and hostage-release deal.

Far-right members of the Israeli government responded to the deadlock in truce talks by calling for Israel to withdraw from the negotiations. “We think it is necessary to order the cessation of the negotiation talks and move to another phase of fighting with intensity,” said national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.


Mr Ben-Gvir also called on the government to place restrictions on Palestinians travelling from the occupied West Bank to visit Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s old city – revered by Jews as the Temple Mount – during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas official Osama Hamdan urged Palestinians across the Middle East to “turn every day into a day of clashes” during Ramadan. He added that nations should not stand idle and watch while “hunger crushes our people and snatches their souls”.

With concerns growing about possible clashes in Jerusalem Jordan’s King Abdullah II received two Arab members of the Israeli Knesset parliament on Monday who reportedly asked for support for unhindered access for Israeli Arab Muslims to the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif site.

US president Joe Biden on Monday called for more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. “There are no excuses,” he said. “The aid flowing into Gaza is nowhere near enough – and nowhere fast enough.”

Speaking to the New Yorker, Mr Biden said he is hoping to see a significant reduction in the use of force by Israel. He said he understood the “anger and rage” caused by Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th, but added: “You can’t let the rage consume you to the point where you lose the moral high ground.”

On the 150th day of the Gaza war the Hamas-controlled health ministry reported that more than 30,500 people have been killed. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th and more than 250 were kidnapped, 134 of whom are still in Gaza.

Clashes escalated on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon on Monday. A Thai worker was killed and seven wounded by an anti-tank missile launched from Lebanon towards the Israeli border community of Margaliot.

Hizbullah deputy leader Naim Qassem said the militants were not worried about a stronger Israeli response. In a speech in Beirut he said an end of the war in Gaza would bring an end to other regional hostilities, and called on countries mediating between Lebanon and Israel to focus on this.

US envoy Amos Hochstein visited Beirut at the start of a new round of shuttle diplomacy, and warned that the Middle East cannot contain a limited war in southern Lebanon. Mr Hochstein cautioned that a Gaza truce would not automatically trigger calm in southern Lebanon, but stressed that he was “hopeful” of a diplomatic solution.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

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