Hamas aired video of three Israeli hostages including a young woman seized at a music festival, saying it would inform the world of their fate on Monday as the war in Gaza surpassed 100 days.
Despite international concern about the heavy toll on Palestinian civilians, Israel has vowed no let-up until Hamas is destroyed and all the more than 100 hostages still in captivity are released.
The concern has seen South Africa seek to prosecute Israel for war crimes at the International Court of Justice, while the US administration said it was seeking “a transition to low-intensity operations” in Gaza.
“We believe it’s the right time for that transition. And we’re talking to them about doing that,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told the CBS network.
Anguished relatives of the hostages are also urging a switch in focus, amid fears that some may have already been killed during the offensive by either Israeli strikes or Hamas reprisals.
A 24-hour rally in Tel Aviv ended on Sunday as Israel marked the 100th day of the war and of the hostages’ captivity. There were also pro-Israel protests in Western capitals, with a crowd in Trafalgar Square chanting “Bring them home”.
The undated 37-second video of Noa Argamani, 26, Yossi Sharabi, 53, and Itai Svirsky, 38, released on Sunday night showed them speaking presumably under duress, pleading with Israel’s government to end the war and get them home.
The clip ended with a Hamas caption that on Monday, “we will inform you of their fate”. Israel has blasted such videos as psychological warfare and insists it will not be deflected from its goals in Gaza, after Hamas launched raids into southern Israel on October 7 that claimed 1,200 lives.
Among the targets was a music festival from which Ms Argamani and her boyfriend were seized. An early clip released by Hamas showed her pleading for her life as she was taken away on the back of a motorbike.
Ms Argamani’s mother is Chinese and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously urged Beijing to intervene.
Israel has been scaling back operations in northern Gaza, the initial target of the offensive, where airstrikes and ground operations left whole areas in ruins. But fighting continues further south and the Hamas-run health ministry yesterday reported another 125 deaths in the previous 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll close to 24,000.
Mr Kirby said Israel could do more to minimise civilian casualties. “We’re not saying let your foot up off the gas completely and don’t keep going after Hamas,” the White House official said. “It’s just that we believe the time is coming here very, very soon for a transition to this lower intensity phase.”