The latest updates from the war between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli authorities say that 31 of the hostages taken to Gaza by Hamas on October 7 have now been confirmed dead – more than a fifth of the number that remain in the area.
Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people in their attack, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250. More than 100 captives, mostly women and children, were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
The Palestinian death toll from nearly four months of war has reached 27,585, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count but says most of the dead have been women and children.
The war has levelled vast swaths of the tiny enclave and pushed a quarter of its residents to starvation.
Hamas shows signs of engaging with ceasefire proposal
Hamas’ response to the latest plan for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages was “generally positive,” key mediator Qatar said Tuesday, as the militant group reiterated its demand for an end to the war, something Israel has thus far ruled out.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdurrahman Al Thani announced the response during a news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said he would brief Israeli leaders on it Wednesday when he meets with them.
Qatar, which has long mediated with Hamas, has been working with the US and Egypt to broker a ceasefire that would involve a halt in fighting for several weeks and the release of the over 100 hostages still held by Hamas after its October 7 cross-border raid that ignited the war.
Hamas said in a statement that it responded in a “positive spirit” to the latest proposal. But the militant group said it still seeks “a comprehensive and complete” ceasefire to end “the aggression against our people.” Hamas is also expected to demand the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners, including high-profile militants, in exchange for the hostages.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out both demands, saying Israel is committed to continuing its offensive until “total victory” over Hamas and to returning all the hostages. He has also dismissed American calls for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Israel funding bill fails in US House of Representatives
A bill to provide Israel with more military aid went down to defeat Tuesday in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC.
The vote was a humiliating failure for Speaker Mike Johnson, who had attempted to separate US support for Israel from other national security priorities such as fighting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deterring crossings at the US-Mexico border.
It was the second setback of the day for House Republican leaders. Just minutes before the vote, their drive to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over events at the US-Mexico border fell short thanks to the opposition of three House Republicans.
The House had already gone on the record in support of an Israel aid package. Johnson brought that package up in November on one of his first days as the new House speaker in response to Hamas’s October 7 attack.