IDF troops inside the Gaza Strip > IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED, via Wikimedia Commons.

On the ground:

  • Latest figures suggest that at least 1,444 Israelis have been killed since 7 October, including in the initial Hamas terror attacks, rocket attacks, and subsequent war in Gaza. Around 132 Israelis are thought to still be being held hostage by Hamas.
  • 6 February saw reports that 32 or the remaining hostages are now dead, up from the 29 confirmed prior to that date. The IDF is reportedly also assessing “unconfirmed intelligence” that at least 20 additional hostages may also have been killed.
  • Since 7 October, some 27,585 Palestinians have reportedly been killed according to figures provided by Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by Hamas. These figures have not been independently verified and make no distinction between civilians and Hamas fighters, of which there were reportedly around 40,000 in the Gaza Strip prior to the conflict. The IDF has estimated that around three quarters of Hamas batallions have been destroyed since 7 October.
  • Israel’s operations are moving further south to Rafah, on the border with Egyptian, the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the exclave. On 1 February, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant vowed that the IDF would “dismantle” Hamas’s Rafah brigade just as it had in Khan Younis.
  • Hamas continues to indiscriminately fire rockets into Israel from Gaza, with more than 11,000 fired since 7 October. On 29 January, Hamas launched a barrage of rockets at central Israel for the first time in over a month, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv, Rishon LeZion, Holon and Bat Yam.
  • Since operations began, Israel’s air force has struck 30,000 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including rocket systems, command centres, strategic infrastructure sites, and underground targets. More than 3,400 of these were discovered during the course of fighting.
  • As part of its operations, Israel has made 79,000 phone calls, dropped 7.2 million leaflets, sent 13.7 million texts and 15 million recorded calls to Gazan civilians with evacuation warnings.
  • Saturday 3 February marked 120 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, following the 7 October attacks. This makes the current conflict the second longest in Israeli history, surpassed only by the 1948 war of independence.

Shuttle diplomacy and hostage deal hopes

  • US secretary of state Antony Blinken is in the Middle East for another round of shuttle diplomacy in a bid to secure a new humanitarian pause in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. On his fifth trip to the region since 7 October, Blinken is expected to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.
  • The hostage deal set out in Paris last month would see fighting pause for six weeks and Hamas free the remaining 132 Israeli hostages, in exchange for the release of some Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel. The deal would also see humanitarian aid increased dramatically and an opportunity for civilians to return to their homes.
  • Figures across the region have urged caution at the prospect of the deal, with a senior Likud minister telling the Times of Israel that “we are at the start of the journey” and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan warning that an agreement is not “right around the corner”.
  • This caution is likely a product of Hamas’ apparent slow response to the Paris proposal, reportedly as a result of internal divisions between Yahya Sinwar, the group’s leader in Gaza itself, who supports the six-week deal, and Ismail Haniyeh, the Qatar-based politburo chief, who is pushing for a permanent ceasefire and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza entirely.
  • On 6 February, Hamas submitted its response to the deal in what the Qatari prime minister characterised as an “optimistic” and “positive response”. However, reports indicate that Hamas – increasingly fearing for its survival in Gaza – is maintaining its demand for a permanent ceasefire as part of the deal, which Israel has consistently ruled out before Hamas has been removed from power in the entirety of the Gaza Strip.

What happens next

The success or failure of the negotiations over the hostage deal and potential humanitarian pause remains to be seen, with Hamas insisting on an immediate ceasefire that would see remain in control of Gaza – a stipulation Israel, and much of the international community, could not accept. With Israeli leaders predicting victory over the terror group in a matter of months, and Hamas’ Gaza leadership on the run, the group’s willingness to leave Gaza – thereby ending the threat it poses to Israel – remains the single biggest barrier to an end to the conflict.