Palestinian death toll exceeds 20,000 as Israel-Hamas truce appears on horizon

The Gaza Strip, Palestine – The Palestinian death toll has officially reached 20,000 this week, as Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) continue a ruthless ground and air campaign, which enters its 11th week. Despite the mounting casualties, signs have emerged that Israel and Hamas may be fast approaching a temporary ceasefire in the conflict thanks to a number of diplomatic talks overseas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear several times throughout the conflict that there can be no long-lasting cease-fire until “Hamas militants” have been wholly destroyed in the region. Despite this harsh rhetoric, the White House said it was “pushing” for truce talks that could eventually lead to a second humanitarian pause.

“We continue to believe that Israel does not have to choose between removing the threat of Hamas and minimizing the toll on civilians in Gaza,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an end-of-the-year news conference. “It must do both and it has a strategic interest to do both.”

Netanyahu, who is alleged to be “facing pressure” from Washington and other allies over a litany of PR failures and accusations of war crimes, reiterated his goal of destroying Hamas and stated that there will be no cease-fire until that objective is accomplished. “We won’t stop fighting until we’ve achieved all the objectives we’ve set ourselves: the elimination of Hamas, the release of our hostages, and the end of the threat from Gaza,” he repeated.

While the conflict has so far been contained inside Gaza for some time, fears of a regional escalation have sparked calls for Israel to moderate its assault. In Yemen, the Houthi military has threatened Washington directly, attacking ships in the Red Sea and launching missiles into Israel. In Lebanon, the looming possibility of IDF expansion of the conflict against Hezbollah could prove disastrous for the Netanyahu regime and potentially spurn regional players like Iran, Syria, the United States, and others to intervene.

According to reports, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated, “These are very serious discussions and negotiations, and we hope that they lead somewhere.”

Not everyone appeared interested in a de-escalation of force, however. Some, as recently as Tuesday, were continuing to call for the launch of nuclear weapons against its Palestinian enemy.

“An atom bomb in Gaza is…correct and moral…” said Yehuda Fuah, son of Likud Party leader Michael Fuah, in a series of now-deleted posts on X, formerly Twitter. “I am ready to settle for a small bomb that will destroy only the southern part of the strip.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has increasingly called for the total destruction of Hamas, an enemy entrenched in the ruins of Gaza since their initial raid on October 7th. Recent polls indicate that he has lost the support of half of all Israelis in favor of his political rival, Benny Gantz. Photo: Gali Tibbon, Reuters

The Israeli PM—who recently lost favor with half of the Israeli voter base in favor of his center-left opposition, Benny Gantz—also alleged that some effort was being made to free the remaining 129 hostages still held inside Gaza. Relatives of the hostages were advised that the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, had conducted several talks in Europe to “promote a process” but provided no concrete timeline.

Discussions occurred in Warsaw, Poland, between Mossad director David Barnea and key figures such as CIA chief Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who acts as a mediator. The talks were reportedly conducted to reach an agreement for the release of the remaining Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for a truce and the potential release of Palestinians still held in Israeli prisons.

“An atom bomb in Gaza is…correct and moral…I am ready to settle for a small bomb that will destroy only the southern part of the strip.”

Yehuda Fuah, son of Likud Party leader Michael Fuah, X, formerly Twitter

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Egypt for diplomatic talks with intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. A Hamas official stated that a complete cease-fire was dependent on the end of the Israeli occupation of Gaza before any serious negotiation for a prisoner swap could begin. According to Arab News, Hamas sources close to the talks indicated that proposals being discussed include a week-long truce, which would result in the release of 40 Israeli hostages.

While talks were underway, residents in Rafah—where the fighting remains particularly intense—expressed hopes for a positive outcome. Doubts loom, however, reinforced by reports of Israeli snipers killing two Christian women “in cold blood” in a church compound in Gaza City over the weekend. IDF spokesman later smeared the women by claiming they were acting as “Hamas spotters.” The wanton killings of seemingly innocent women followed another incident where IDF soldiers infamously gunned down three unarmed men who later turned out to be Israeli hostages.

Three Israeli hostages mistakenly gunned down by the IDF are named from left to right: Samer El-Talalqa, Alon Shamriz, and Yotam Haim. At the time of their deaths, they were bare-chested and carrying a white flag, according to the Guardian. Photo: Telegram

The foundations for a lasting peace between Israel and Hamas have, so far, come at a rising human cost. According to the Guardian, the official Palestinian death toll has hit an alarming 20,000 men, women, and children, no thanks to unrepentant airstrikes as the ongoing conflict enters its 11th week. The grim milestone was achieved around the same time a refugee camp and one of the region’s last functioning hospitals were targeted by Israeli warplanes.

In addition to the casualties, over two million people have now become displaced as a result of Israeli targeting of civilian structures, sparking international outrage and worldwide protests from both sides of the political spectrum.

The Gaza war, which began when Hamas launched a daring military raid against encroaching Israeli Kibbutzes on October 7, has taken a devastating toll on both sides. According to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures, approximately 1,140 people in Israel have been killed, and around 250 have been abducted. While the Israeli press has insisted that those numbers contain mostly “civilian” casualties, it is important to note that the line between militant and civilian is often blurred, thanks to IDF conscription and citizen militias, which Israeli officials and politicians have armed with automatic weapons.

In response to the October 7th attack, Israel launched Operation Iron Swords, a relentless bombardment and a slow-rolling ground invasion of Gaza. They now face an entrenched enemy that continues to inflict painful casualties on Israeli troops and vehicles despite a crippling technological disadvantage. Hamas authorities claim that the majority of those killed in Gaza so far have been women and children, and so far, Israel has targeted ancient holy sites, hospitals, and refugee camps with US-funded heavy ordinance.

Displaced Palestinians crowd to get “lentil soup” in Rafah, a city in the south of the Gaza Strip. According to reports, over two million Palestinians are now displaced from their homes following Israeli air and ground attacks. Photo: Telegram

Horrific acts of disproportionate force being used against Gazas—which has led to accusations of genocide—have drawn almost unanimous condemnation from members of the United Nations. Regardless, Western leaders have been slow to demand an end to the killing. Instead, politicians like US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron have instead urged for patience and slowing, not stopping, the rate of civilian casualties.

While many developments surrounding the current conflict appear unpredictable, in America, the heavy-handed response by wealthy Jewish power figures to stifle anti-Zionist rhetoric appears anything but. In an unprecedented move, the US House of Representatives earlier in the month officially declared that “anti-zionism is antisemitism” in a resolution seeking to reify support for Israel and stamp out dissenting opinions of its war. Their view on what does or does not constitute an accusation of antisemitism is broad and closely matches the definition sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.

Days later, a Jewish professor at an Ivy League college overtly called for the elimination of Americans’ 1st Amendment rights to protect Jews from so-called “antisemitism.” The demands were made in the wake of numerous polls, studies, and protest rallies that suggest Millennials and Gen Z have grown skeptical of long-established Jewish-imposed political narratives, including the Holocaust.

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