Israel pulls Mossad negotiators from Qatar after ‘impasse’ over captives

Israel has pulled its Mossad negotiators from Qatar, which along with Egypt and the United States is mediating talks to secure a renewed pause in the Israel-Hamas war.

“Following the impasse in the negotiations and at the direction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, David Barnea, head of the Mossad, ordered his team in Doha to return to Israel,” Netanyahu’s office said in a statement on Saturday.

The statement accused Hamas of not fulfilling its side of an agreement to extend the truce in Gaza. The deal had included the release of all women and children held in Gaza in accordance with a list conveyed to Hamas and agreed upon, the statement said.

Hours later, Hamas said there will be no further prisoner exchange with Israel until the war on Gaza is over.

“Our official stance is there will be no further prisoner swap until the war ends,” deputy head of the group, Saleh al-Arouri, told Al Jazeera.

“Israeli prisoners will not be released until our [Palestinian] prisoners are liberated and after a ceasefire comes into effect.”

“What we have left of Israeli prisoners are soldiers and civilians serving in the army,” he added.

The Hamas official said the group was ready to exchanges the “bodies of dead Israelis in exchange for our own martyrs, but we need time to exhume these bodies”.

“The Israeli occupation insists that we are still holding women and children but we have already released them all,” he said.

Reporting from Doha, Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem said: “Given the fact that the demands now are changing, the Israelis are demanding that Hamas should release women soldiers.”

“To Hamas, that has a different price,” he said, referring to the previous agreement of three Palestinians prisoners released for every captive held in Gaza under the weeklong truce that ended early on Friday. “The main issue is also that Hamas was from the beginning offering all for all – the Israeli captives for all the Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

“Now, we are facing this deadlock with the Israelis withdrawing. This doesn’t mean that negotiations are coming to an end. There may be another mediation and new ideas from different parties,” he said.

The temporary truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed after mediators were unable to extend it. The humanitarian pause saw the release of 80 Israeli captives in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Macron in Qatar

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said France is “very concerned” by the resumption of violence in Gaza as he landed in Qatar on Saturday to help kick-start a new truce.​​​

Macron said at a press conference at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai that the situation required the doubling-down of efforts to obtain a lasting ceasefire and the freeing of all captives.

He also urged Israel to clarify its goals towards Hamas.

“We are at a moment when Israeli authorities must more precisely define their objectives and their final goal: the total destruction of Hamas – does anyone think it is possible? If this is the case, the war will last 10 years,” he said.

Asked for a response to those remarks, Mark Regev, senior adviser to Netanyahu, told reporters Israel does not want to see Gaza civilians caught in the crossfire as battles resume.

“Israel is targeting Hamas, a brutal terrorist organisation that has committed the most horrific violence against innocent civilians. Israel is making a maximum effort to safeguard Gaza’s civilians,” Regev said.

Jabalia camp hit again

But the civilian death toll continues to mount in the enclave.

At least 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes on the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the strip on Saturday. Rescuers used their bare hands to dig through rubble in search of survivors.

Palestinian authorities said at least 240 people have been killed since the bombings resumed early on Friday.

Fadel Naim, chief doctor at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, said his morgue has received 30 bodies since Saturday morning, including seven children.

“The planes bombed our houses. Three bombs, three houses destroyed,” Nemr al-Bel, 43, told the Agence France-Presse news agency, adding that he had counted 10 dead in his family and “13 more still under the rubble”.

The United Nations estimated at least 1.7 million people in Gaza – 80 percent of its population – have been displaced since the war began on October 7.

Since then, the Israeli campaign in Gaza has killed more than 15,000 people, most of them civilians. In Israel, the official death toll stands at about 1,200.

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