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US dispatches McGurk to Cairo, Doha for hostage talks

The trip comes after Netanyahu rejected Hamas's demands as "surrender."

People walk by photographs of civilians who have been held or are still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Ramat Gan. Jan. 21, 2024. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
People walk by photographs of civilians who have been held or are still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Ramat Gan. Jan. 21, 2024. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, headed to the region on Sunday for talks with Egyptian and Qatari officials on another deal to release the remaining hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

McGurk’s first stop was Cairo, where he was expected to meet with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel. He will then fly to Doha to meet with the country’s prime minister and foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk speaks at the Munich Security Conference in 2017. Credit: Kuhlmann/MSC via Wikimedia Commons.

Egypt and Qatar helped broker a deal in November that saw the release of more than 100 hostages. According to the IDF, 136 hostages are still being held in Gaza out of 240 taken during the Hamas massacre on Oct. 7, although many are believed to be dead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday night rejected Hamas‘s latest terms for a new hostage deal as constituting surrender.

“Regarding our hostages, we have brought back 110 of them so far, and we are committed to bringing them all back. This is one of the war’s objectives, and military pressure is an essential condition for its completion,” the premier said.

Netanyahu said he “outright rejects the Hamas monsters’ terms of surrender. In exchange for the release of our hostages, Hamas demands the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the Nukhba [terrorist commando] murderers and rapists, and leaving Hamas intact.

“If we agree to this, our soldiers will have fallen in vain. If we agree to this, we will not be able to guarantee the security of our citizens. We will not be able to return the evacuees safely to their homes, and the next October 7 will only be a matter of time,” Netanyahu said.

IDF kills terrorists, destroys rocket launcher

Israel Defense Forces operations continued across Gaza as the war against Hamas entered its 108th day on Monday, with a combined ground and aerial attack eliminating an armed terrorist cell in the Strip’s north.

After killing the terrorists, an Israeli Air Force jet struck the compound where the squad was operating.

In another joint ground and aerial operation in the central Strip, several terrorists who tried to ambush troops were killed in an airstrike.

Furthermore, in Maghazi in central Gaza, soldiers from the Yiftach Brigade—the commando force of the IDF’s 99th Division composed mostly of veterans of the elite Egoz Unit—located a weapons production site in a Hamas command and control center and a loaded rocket launcher in a nearby olive grove. The IDF destroyed the factories, weapons and rocket launcher.

During the operation, troops engaged with terrorists after an RPG was fired at an IDF tank. Ground and aerial forces killed several of the terrorists.

Murdered soldier’s body held in Gaza

The IDF on Sunday confirmed the murder of a soldier during the Hamas massacre of Oct. 7 and that his body is being held by the terrorist group in Gaza—Sgt. Shay Levinson, 19, from Giv’at Avni, a fighter in the 77th Battalion of the 7th (“Storm from the Golan”) Armored Brigade.

His death brings the number of military personnel killed since Oct. 7 on all fronts to 532. A total of 195 soldiers have died in the Gaza Strip since the start of ground operations there on Oct. 27.

More on the Khan Yunis tunnel

The IDF on Sunday provided additional video documentation of the Hamas tunnel found underneath the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, where some 20 captives were held at various times.

The tunnel, which was destroyed after examination, cost millions of shekels to construct, according to the IDF. Longer than seven football fields at 830 meters (908 yards) in length and at a depth of 20 meters (22 yards), it was a branch of a tunnel network built beneath the city.

According to the military, around 20 hostages were held at various times in the tunnel, some of whom have since been released. They were held in a central chamber that included five barred prison cells.

Evidence was found indicating that the hostages were held there, along with intelligence and weapons belonging to Hamas.

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