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What will happen to the ceasefire talks after Israel freed four hostages and killed 274 Palestinians?

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel’s dramatic weekend Rescue of four hostages The operation from Gaza, in which local health officials said 274 Palestinians were killed, came at a sensitive time in the eight-month war, as Israel and Hamas are considering a US proposal for a ceasefire and the release of remaining prisoners.

Both sides are under renewed pressure to reach an agreement: the complex rescue operation is unlikely to be repeated on the scale needed to free dozens of the remaining hostages. It was also a stark reminder to the Israelis that there are still surviving prisoners being held in harsh conditions. Hamas now has four fewer bargaining chips.

But they could also dig in, as they have repeatedly done in months of indirect negotiations mediated by the US, Qatar and Egypt. Hamas continues to insist on an end to the war as part of an agreement, while Israel says it remains committed to Destruction of the militant group.

Here is an overview of the consequences of the operation and how they could affect the ceasefire talks:

Euphoria and growing demands for a deal

The rescue operation was Israel’s most successful since the war began. Four of the approximately 250 prisoners captured by Hamas in its cross-border attack on October 7 were brought home. including Noa Argamaniwho became an icon in the fight to free the hostages.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 274 Palestinians were killed in the attack. This exacerbated the suffering of the people of Gaza who had to endure the brutal war and humanitarian catastrophe. The ministry makes no distinction between fighters and civilians in its figures.

The rescue was greeted with great enthusiasm in Israel, which is still reeling from the Hamas attack and fears for the fate of the 80 prisoners and the remains of over 40 others still held in Gaza. Israeli hardliners are likely to use this as proof that the rest can be brought back through military pressure alone.

But since the war began, only three other hostages have been freed by military force. Three more were mistakenly killed by Israeli forces after they fled on their own. According to Hamas, others were killed in Israeli air strikes.

“If anyone thinks that yesterday’s operation relieves the government of the need to reach an agreement, he is living in a fantasy world,” Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in the mass-circulation newspaper Yediot Aharonot. “There are people out there who need to be saved, and the sooner the better.”

Even Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari acknowledged the limits of military force. “Most hostages will only come home alive through a deal,” he told reporters.

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held by the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip demand their release during a rally in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 8, 2024. Israel said Saturday it had rescued four hostages kidnapped in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, the largest rescue operation of its kind since the war in Gaza began. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held by the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip demand their release during a rally in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Over 100 hostages were taken during a one-week ceasefire last yearin exchange for Palestinians held captive by Israel, and a similar agreement is still widely seen as the only way to free the remaining hostages. Hours after Saturday’s rescue, tens of thousands of Israelis took part in protests in Tel Aviv demanding such a deal.

US President Joe Biden announced last week a proposal for a phased plan for a ceasefire and the release of hostages, bringing the government’s most concentrated diplomatic push for a ceasefire.

Biden described the proposal as an Israeli proposal, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly questioned some aspects of it, particularly the call for an Israeli withdrawal of forces from Gaza and a permanent ceasefire. His ultranationalist coalition partners have threatened to overthrow his government if he ends the war without destroying Hamas.

This appears to have only heightened suspicions among Hamas, which is demanding international guarantees to end the war. It is unclear whether such guarantees have been offered, and Hamas has not yet officially responded to the plan.

NETANYAHU WANTS TO WIN

The rescue operation was a rare victory for Netanyahu, which many Israelis consider the security deficiencies that led to the attack on 7 October and the fact that despite months of grueling war, the hostages were not released.

Revelling in the success of the operation, he rushed to the hospital where the freed hostages were being held on Saturday and met with each of them on camera. The rescue operation will likely help restore his image.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at Sheba Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel, Saturday, June 8, 2024. Israel carried out its largest hostage rescue operation since the start of the war with Hamas on Saturday, evacuating four hostages from central Gaza as heavy fighting continued there. (Jack Guez/Pool Photo via AP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at Sheba Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel, Saturday, June 8, 2024. (Jack Guez/Pool Photo via AP)

But even if the euphoria fades, he will continue to face strong pressure from an American government that wants to end the war and an ultranationalist base that wants to defeat Hamas at all costs. His main political opponent, retired General Benny Gantz, leave the emergency coalition on Sunday, which made Netanyahu even more dependent on the hardliners.

Netanyahu is already facing criticism from relatives of deceased hostages, who claim they received no such visits and accuse him of taking credit for the war’s successes. Israel is also likely to face increasing international pressure over the high number of Palestinian deaths in the raid.

“The successful rescue of the four hostages is a great tactical victory that has not changed our deplorable strategic situation,” wrote columnist Ben Caspit in the Israeli daily Maariv.

All of this makes it a difficult balancing act, even for someone like Netanyahu, whom friends and foes alike consider a master politician.

The operation could give the Israeli public the boost it needs to justify a deal with Hamas. Or he could conclude that time is on his side and he can negotiate harder with the militants, who are suffering a serious setback.

Hamas loses negotiating potential

Hamas has lost four valuable bargaining chips that it was trying to exchange for prominent Palestinian prisoners. Argamani, widely known for a video in which she pleaded for her life as militants dragged her away on a motorcycle, was a particularly hard loss for Hamas.

The attack is also likely to have dealt a blow to Hamas’s morale. During the attack on October 7Hamas succeeded in humiliating a country that had a far superior army, and has since regrouped despite devastating military operations throughout the Gaza Strip.

But the fact that Israel was able to a complex rescue operation in broad daylight in the middle of a densely populated urban area has, at least temporarily, restored some of the mystery that Israeli security forces lost on October 7.

The operation also drew global attention to the hostage-taking And this comes at a time when the US is increasing global pressure on Hamas to agree to the ceasefire agreement.

But Hamas has always withstood pressure from Israel and other countries. often at enormous cost to the PalestiniansThe militants may conclude that it is best to use the remaining hostages to end the war while they still can – or they may simply look for better hiding places.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war