While Hamas announced this Friday that the release of the rest of Israeli hostages should come after Israel accepts a ceasefire in Gaza, the Israeli airstrikes continue to hit Gaza and Tel Aviv says its preparing for a massive ground attack anyway.
This Friday, Russia’s capital of Moscow hosted Hamas officials to discuss with them the ongoing war between the Palestinian group and Israel. During the meeting, Hamas officials made it clear that they could not release any of the hostages until Israel agreed to a ceasefire and end the brutal bombardment of Palestinians living in Gaza. This is because most of the hostages have been taken by different factions of Hamas and that they need to be tracked down.
Speaking to Russia’s state news agency RIA, Hamas Politburo member Abu Marzouk said that “all those captured, for us, are Israelis, although there is an appeal to their original citizenship in the hope this will save them,” adding that “Israel must first accept a ceasefire and then we can search and find, and release the hostages.” Israel, however, insists that it is preparing a ground invasion anyway.
This is while many Arab countries and Israel’s top ally, the United States, have all been urging Israel to delay the ground invasion that would only increase the already huge number of civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal strip of Gaza. They have also warned Israel several times since the war with Hamas started on October 7 that continuing the war could very well ignite a wider conflict in the region.
Why is Israel delaying the ground invasion?
Israel’s air attacks continue in Gaza and more and more Palestinians are losing their lives these days. The latest report by the Palestinian Health Ministry suggests that more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed so far by the Israeli airstrikes, including around 3,000 children.
But Israel seems to still be doubtful over whether it should really carry out a massive ground attack in Gaza as promised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This is true, especially considering the fact that nearly 20 days have passed since Israel first announced its intention of the attack but it has not done it yet.
Results of an opinion poll suggested this Friday that almost half of Israelis now want their government to hold off the ground invasion out of fears for at least 224 hostages reported to be held there. In the poll, that was carried out by Israel’s Maariv newspaper, 49 percent of Israelis said “it would be better to wait” before beginning a large-scale ground offensive, while 29 percent disagreed with the idea. A week earlier, 65% had backed a ground invasion.
Political experts also suggest that another reason for the delay is that Israeli ground forces are not trained enough for urban warfare and especially for what would certainly be the most difficult part of such a battle: subterranean fighting in the network of Hamas tunnels.
In addition, a possible lack of interest by Israeli soldiers and even Israeli commanders could be another factor to explain the long delay in carrying out the promised ground invasion in Gaza. This lack of interest comes directly from the recent contentions between the Israeli government and the Israeli military over the former’s plans to limit the power of Israel’s Supreme Court, a move that Israeli military personnel and commanders have strongly opposed.
Last but not least, Israel fears that if it carries out the large ground invasion in Gaza, Hezbollah might come to the scene and open another battlefield against Israel. After all, Hezbollah is a very strong militia group in Lebanon, way stronger and larger than Hamas, that if enters the war, could make the already difficult situation for Israel even more complicated and out of control.