Israel-Hamas war: US official says no significant pause in conflict before hostages are released

A top US official said on Saturday (Nov 18) that there would be no significant pause in the Israel-Hamas war before Israeli hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza were released. Addressing a security conference in Bahrain, White House Coordinator for Middle East and North America Brett McGurk said, “The surge in humanitarian relief, the surge in fuel, the pause… will come when hostages are released.” 

McGurk said that the release of a large number of hostages would result in “a significant pause… and a massive surge of humanitarian relief.” He also said that the situation in the Gaza Strip was “horrific” and “intolerable”.

Biden ‘mildly hopeful’ of reaching deal to free hostages

Two days back, US President Joe Biden said he was “mildly hopeful” of reaching a deal to free the hostages, believed to include about 10 American citizens. The White House, meanwhile, later said that Biden and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani discussed “the urgent need for all hostages held by Hamas to be released without further delay”.

Qatar hosts members of Hamas’s political leadership and has been key to the hostage negotiations, acting as a mediator along with other Arab countries such as Egypt. The hostage talks have been fraught, with Israel and Hamas blaming each other for some of them breaking down.

Israel said that Hamas has taken around 240 Israelis hostage. 

UN calls for release of all hostages in Gaza without condition

Earlier on Saturday, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths called for the release of all hostages held in Gaza without condition. In an address to the UN General Assembly, Griffiths further renewed calls for a “humanitarian ceasefire” to allow aid to reach the 2.2 million people trapped in Gaza.

“Call it what you will, but the requirement, from a humanitarian point of view, is simple. Stop the fighting to allow civilians to move safely,” Griffiths said. 

“We are not asking for the moon. We are asking for the basic measures required to meet the essential needs of the civilian population and stem the course of this crisis,” he added.

Death toll in Gaza reaches 12,300: Hamas

Also on Saturday, Hamas officials said that the death toll in the Gaza Strip climbed to 12,300 since hostilities started on October 7. Hamas said the toll included more than 5,000 children and 3,300 women. More than 30,000 people have been wounded.

Meanwhile, on the Israeli side, around 1,200, mostly civilians have been killed. 

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