JERUSALEM: An Israeli government spokesman said Friday that the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas “will now take the mother of all thumpings” after a truce in the Gaza Strip expired and hostilities resumed.
“Unfortunately, Hamas decided to terminate the pause by failing to release all the kidnapped women,” government spokesman Eylon Levy told a briefing.
“Having chosen to hold onto our women, Hamas will now take the mother of all thumpings.”
Under the pause, Hamas-held hostages were released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and more aid flowed into the Gaza Strip.
Levy said the week-long deal could have been extended further, with the Israeli government already approving a list of Palestinian prisoners for release in order “to proceed with an exchange for at least another two days”.
Hamas said the blame for failure to agree a truce extension lies with Israel which had “persistently” rejected offers of hostage releases.
“Throughout the night, indirect negotiations unfolded to extend the truce, within which we proposed exchanges involving prisoners and elderly people, as well as the handover of bodies of Israeli detainees who lost their lives due to Zionist bombings,” the movement, which has an armed wing, said in a statement.
Levy said Hamas was still holding 137 hostages, 10 of them aged 75 or older.
That number included “117 males” and 20 females, while 126 were Israelis and 11 foreign nationals: eight Thais, one Nepalese citizen, one Tanzanian and one French-Mexican.
He added that seven people were still listed as missing in the wake of the October 7 attacks, when Hamas militants broke through Gaza’s militarised border into southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240, according to an Israeli count.
Israel hit back with a relentless military campaign in Gaza that authorities in the Hamas-ruled territory say has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians.