Hamas on Sunday threatened to execute all remaining hostages unless their demands, including increased aid for Gaza and prisoner exchanges, were met, after suffering several setbacks in its war with Israel. The Palestinian terror group is still in possession of the bodies of 20 hostages who died in captivity, Israel reported over the weekend.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida issued a menacing threat to Israel and its leadership on Sunday, claiming that not a single hostage would be returned alive without meeting the demands of the resistance. Some of the demands put forth include increased aid for residents of Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel Defense Forces.
Chilling Threat to Execute Hostages
Obeida claimed that no further kidnap victim would leave Gaza alive unless Israel agreed to all of its demands. These demands were part of negotiations that broke down at the beginning of December.
"Neither the fascist enemy and its arrogant leadership... nor its supporters... can take their prisoners alive without an exchange and negotiation and meeting the demands of the resistance," Obeida said in a televised broadcast.
As the conflict intensifies, prospects for a ceasefire are fading. Israel has indicated a readiness to persist in its campaign for months or longer to fully eliminate Hamas, while the mediator Qatar suggests that the willingness to engage in negotiations is dwindling.
Israel declared war in response to the disturbing attack on October 7 by Hamas and other groups, resulting in 1,200 casualties and around 240 taken as hostages back to Gaza.
According to Hamas, more than 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza. A weeklong ceasefire last month led to the release of over 100 women and children held by Hamas. The terms included the exchange of three Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails for each hostage returned.
The ultimatum was issued as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed that, of the 137 hostages believed to still be in Hamas custody, 20 are confirmed dead.
Hamas previously accused Israel of killing hostages in ongoing airstrikes in northern Gaza.
Yarden Bibas, a hostage, reiterated these allegations in a Hamas video, holding Netanyahu responsible for the death of his wife and two young boys. Israel dismissed these claims as propaganda and accused Hamas of refusing to hand over the bodies of the dead Israelis.
Hamas is allegedly using the dead hostages as leverage in the halted negotiations for a hostage exchange. It aims to free more Palestinians from Israeli prisons and increase the arrival of aid trucks in Gaza.
Israel's Mission Still Not Complete
The Israel Defense Forces said that since the ceasefire ended, around 3,500 Hamas targets have been eliminated in the Gaza Strip. Since the start of the conflict on October 7, more than 22,000 targets have been destroyed in response to Hamas' initial attack on Israel.
A senior IDF official suggested that with Israel's recent advancements in northern and southern Gaza, there are now indications of Hamas weakening.
"The extent of the destruction and damage creates command and control problems [for Hamas]. There are areas in the Gaza Strip that Hamas no longer controls militarily," the official said.
Despite recent successes for Israel across Gaza, the official stated that the fighting is expected to intensify as Hamas persists in holding out for as long as possible.
After almost two months of warfare in northern Gaza, which included the raiding and destruction of multiple headquarters, the IDF is now concentrating its bombardments around Khan Younis, the largest city in the south.
Intense fighting has been reported in the center of the city, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sought refuge after being evacuated from the north.
As Israel's military campaign in Gaza persists, the IDF suggests it is closing in on Yahya Sinwar, a prominent Hamas leader referred to as 'Gaza's Bin Laden.'
Reports suggest that Sinwar is reportedly hiding at a location in northwest Khan Younis, a southern city currently surrounded by IDF troops.
In a televised statement on Sunday evening, Netanyahu declared: "The war is still ongoing but it is the beginning of the end of Hamas. I say to the Hamas terrorists: It's over. Don't die for Sinwar. Surrender now."
However, Sinwar has reportedly escaped south, allegedly hiding in an evacuating humanitarian vehicle, and is now believed to be in one of the tunnels in Khan Younis, part of Hamas' extensive underground network, according to the Times of Israel.
The Israeli military claims to have killed half of Hamas' estimated 24 battalion leaders, estimating around 7,000 Hamas members killed during the war.
According to Gaza's Hamas-linked Health Ministry, over 17,700 casualties, primarily women and children, have occurred. An IDF spokesperson previously described the ratio of terrorists to civilians killed as "positive."