Israel will restart bombing Gaza once hostage release, ceasefire end, says envoy

Israel will restart bombing Gaza once hostage release, ceasefire end, says envoy

Israel’s Ambassador Naor Gilon expressed the hope again that India would ban Hamas and designate it as a terror group

Israel will restart its bombing of Gaza, moving from North to South Gaza as soon as the release of hostages ends, Israeli diplomats said here, but gave no details as to where they would move more than two million Palestinians now taking shelter in South Gaza. Briefing the media about IDF operations thus far, a security official, who asked not to be named, claimed that “100%” of Hamas posts overground in Northern Gaza have been “cleared” as Israel launched airstrikes followed by a ground invasion over the past month. 

Speaking at the same briefing, Israel’s Ambassador to India Naor Gilon expressed the hope again that India would ban Hamas and designate it as a terror group. While New Delhi has called the October 7 attacks by Hamas as “terrorist acts”, the Modi government has not banned the group itself. The briefing by Israeli officials was held on the same day as a press meet by all Arab country ambassadors in the capital that called for solidarity with Palestine. 

“The minute we finish the ceasefire, we are going back to the mission,” Mr. Gilon told reporters, “Once they stop releasing hostages, we will go back to what we were planning to do all along, to get rid of Hamas”. He added that the ceasefire effected last week, brokered by Qatar and the United States had been “imposed” on Israel as a condition for the return of Israeli hostages that had been taken by Hamas militants during the October 7 attacks in which 1,200 Israelis were killed. Israel has agreed to stopping the bombardment of Gaza, where more than 13,000 people, a third of them children, are believed to have been killed in the past few weeks. The Israeli government has also agreed to releasing Palestinian prisoners, many of them minors, and has thus far released triple the numbers of prisoners as that of Israeli hostages that Hamas has released, and allowed trucks carrying food, fuel and aid to enter South Gaza.

The ultimate aim

“As long as they continue to release hostages, for every ten hostages we will extend the ceasefire by a day. But eventually the aim is to ensure Hamas will not be capable of executing such acts against Israel,” Mr. Gilon said, adding that Israeli officials have consistently briefed the Indian government about the situation. He also confirmed that Israeli President Isaac Herzog would travel to the UAE for the CoP 28 Climate Change conference this week, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also attend.

“If schedules allow, they will meet,” said Mr. Gilon, when asked if the two leaders had plans to meet in Dubai.  “If it happens, we will be very happy . If not, we will find another opportunity,” he added.

When asked about New Delhi’s response on the request to ban Hamas, the Israeli envoy said India had been “consistent” in its stand since October 7, especially on the subject of not tolerating terror attacks, and that he had raised Israel’s request that India add Hamas to its UAPA list of designated terror entities. 

“We have filed the information needed…it is an Indian government decision to decide when and how, and if….” Mr. Gilon said, when asked if he had received a favourable reply on the request from India. 

Sidestepping a question about India’s continued engagement with Iran, including Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra’s visit to Tehran this week, Mr. Gilon called Iran “the snake’s head” of groups targeting Israel, and accused the Iranian government of controlling Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis as well as Shi’a militia in Iraq and Syria. When asked why Israel, that lost its own citizens during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 had only just banned the Lashkar-e-Taiba this month, Mr. Gilon said Israel saw the LeT as a “local organisation” that has not been able to execute terror actions “around the world”.  

“Usually we don’t list organisations that are not connected to Israel or our region directly,” he said, adding that some exceptions were made for certain UN-designated, and U.S.-designated terror groups, but didn’t explain why such an exception had not been made in 15 years for the LeT, which is banned by both the U.S. and UN, and is wanted for planning attacks in Europe and for terror training in the U.S.

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