Israel Blames Hamas for Hostage Talks Collapse as Troops Advance in Khan Younis

JERUSALEM, Israel – Fierce fighting continued inside the Gaza Strip Wednesday after Israel said it had encircled the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, a Hamas stronghold. In the meantime, Israel announced the Qatar-brokered talks for the release of the hostages have broken down. 

Media reports indicated that Israel killed scores of terrorists as they close in on the city center.

The Israel Defense Forces also said they located and destroyed a terrorist tunnel less than a mile from Israel’s border. The soldiers found anti-aircraft missiles and equipment to produce and launch rockets.

Thousands of Palestinians continue to flee Khan Younis as Israeli troops advance through Gaza’s second-largest city. 

One displaced man said, “Everyone started fleeing. They were saying the Jews (Israeli troops) have entered al-Amal neighborhood (in Khan Younis). We couldn’t handle it anymore, especially for the children’s sake. We want a solution. Do we just stay on the streets like we’re doing now?” 

In an unusual act, a video posted on reportedly shows Palestinian men, women, and children in Gaza expressing their anger toward Hamas and its leader, Yiyeh Sinwar near a central Gaza hospital, demanding that he return the hostages so the war will end and Gazans can go home.

Israeli Government Spokesman Eylon Levy told CBN News, “Hamas decided to wage war and to fight that war, hiding behind civilian areas, embedding its military infrastructure underneath civilian buildings. Now, according to the UN, most conflicts around the world, something like 90 percent of casualties are civilians. So the fact that we’re talking about a ratio potentially of 1 to 1.5, while being certainly too high, shows the lengths that the Israeli army has gone to to try to keep civilians safe.”

In Israel, too, distraught relatives of the hostages and other are demanding their release. Protesters blocked a main Tel Aviv highway, calling on the Cabinet to bring the hostages home.

In Jerusalem, women blocked a road and hung a banner saying the hostages are running out of time.

Israeli officials dismissed reports that there had been any sort of agreement in principle including release of the hostages during ceasefire talks. The Netanyahu government blamed Hamas for blocking any deal.

At a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu honored the fallen soldiers and repeated Israel’s goal.

“This is a war on our home,” he said. “It must end, and it will end, with the eradication of the aggression and evil of the new Nazis. Those who attacked, kidnapped, raped, and murdered brought upon himself unprecedented destruction with his own hands.”

Netanyahu warned the West that Israel’s fate would be theirs as well.

He cautioned, “I told world leaders that if Israel, God forbid, does not win, you will be next in line. The danger will reach you most certainly, quicker than you think.”

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