Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made statements suggesting openness to a “partial deal” with Hamas, depending on the release of some captives, while continuing the war to eliminate Hamas entirely.

“I’m not prepared to end the war and leave Hamas in place. I am prepared to do a partial deal, that’s no secret, that would return some of the people to us,” Netanyahu stated in a televised interview. 

This stance, viewed as unrealistic by military experts, contradicts the US outline for a permanent ceasefire and has sparked outrage within Israel.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum condemned his stance as a betrayal of these individuals and their families.

“We strongly condemn the prime minister’s statement in which he walked back from the Israeli proposal. This means he is abandoning 120 hostages and harms the moral duty of the state of Israel to its citizens,” the group stated.

Reports from Haaretz and Walla news outlets indicated that Netanyahu’s comments have significantly damaged the ongoing ceasefire talks. “Netanyahu made it clear today that he is not interested in the release of all the hostages – the demand he himself makes to Hamas – and is not willing to provide the compensation that Hamas demands,” a source told Haaretz.

In response, Hamas issued a statement claiming that Netanyahu’s remarks demonstrate Israel’s opposition to both the Biden proposal and the latest UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire agreement.

Negotiations between Israel and Hamas have been ongoing since January, mediated by the US, Qatar, and Egypt. A three-phased outline has been proposed, with most components finalised, though critical issues remain unresolved, including the terms of a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

US President Joe Biden publicly stated that Israel had agreed to a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal. Israeli officials have not confirmed this agreement. Hamas continues to demand a clear end to the war and full withdrawal of Israeli forces. Qatar’s Foreign Affairs Minister has acknowledged progress in the negotiations but noted that significant gaps still need to be bridged.

Meanwhile, Save the Children has said that an estimated 21,000 Palestinian children are currently missing in war-torn Gaza. Approximately 4,000 children are believed to be trapped under rubble, presumed dead, while another 17,000 are unaccompanied and separated from their families, the aid organisation said. The exact fate of many remains uncertain, with an unknown number potentially buried in unmarked graves.

There are reports of children being abducted or detained by Israeli forces and transferred out of Gaza. Their whereabouts remain unknown, with allegations of ill-treatment and torture.

Jeremy Stoner, Save the Children’s Regional Director for the Middle East, expressed concern over the plight of these families. Stoner emphasised the need for a ceasefire to support the search for missing children and prevent further family tragedies.