Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into the Gaza Strip, rescuing a hostage held by Hamas, as the war threatened to escalate on multiple fronts.
The Israeli military said on Monday it had deployed additional “infantry, armour, engineers and artillery” in Gaza and had killed dozens of Hamas militants in fighting in the territory, while Palestinians said Israeli forces had reached the outskirts of Gaza City.
At a time of mounting concern about the fate of more than 230 hostages captured by Hamas, Israeli military and intelligence authorities said that an Israeli soldier, Ori Megidish, had been released during ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces.
Ahead of a war cabinet meeting, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, said the IDF was expanding its presence in Gaza “in measured, very powerful steps, making systematic progress one step at a time”.
He added: “Calls for a ceasefire are a call for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terror, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen.”
Megidish is the first hostage to be rescued to date, although Hamas released four abductees last week.
Hamas released a video of three other hostages in what Netanyahu described as an act of “brutal psychological propaganda”.
In the video, a woman identified as Danielle Aloni, a 44-year-old from the town of Yavneh, said Palestinian prisoners should be released by Israel to allow her and the other captives to return home.
Netanyahu, who has been criticised by the families of some hostages, later said Israel was “doing everything to return the hostages”.
The death was also confirmed of Shani Louk, a 22-year-old German-Israeli woman believed to have been abducted by Hamas.
In comments on the social media platform X, Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, said her death “shows the full barbarity behind the Hamas attack” on Israel on October 7. He added: “This is terror, and Israel has the right to defend itself.”
The IDF said it was ratcheting up its activities in Gaza, although it declined to provide details of troop locations.
However, footage posted online appeared to show an Israeli tank and bulldozer on the outskirts of Gaza City on Salah al-Deen Road, the main inland north-south axis in the territory.
Bashar, a freelance cameraman travelling with the person who filmed the video, said the tank had shelled a private car in front of them as well as a “small bus”.
The IDF says it has hit more than 600 targets in Gaza in recent days, including weapons depots, anti-tank missile launching posts and hide-outs used by Hamas. The UN’s humanitarian arm said on Monday that some strikes over the weekend had been near hospitals.
Israel has also severely limited supplies of electricity, water, fuel and food to the enclave, prompting aid agencies to warn of a growing humanitarian catastrophe.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken spoke to Qatari prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Monday about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and efforts to release the hostages.
Diplomats are seeking to prevent the hostilities from spilling over into a broader regional conflict, with the US warning Iran and its proxies to stay out of the fighting.
But Israel’s air force bombed “military infrastructure” in Syria overnight after rockets were launched from the country, and one of its jets targeted militants in the city of Jenin in the north of the West Bank. Palestinian health ministry officials said four Palestinians had been killed in the fighting.
Meanwhile, police said they had “neutralised” a man in Jerusalem after he stabbed a police officer in the east of the city.
Daniel Hagari, IDF spokesperson, said Israel was also prepared for a flare-up in hostilities on its northern border with Lebanon, where its forces have been engaged in escalating cross-border fire with militants from the Iran-backed Hizbollah militant group in recent weeks.
Israeli forces struck targets in Lebanon on Sunday and Monday after rockets were fired deeper into northern Israel than at any point since fighting between Hamas and Israel erupted this month.
Israel has also been bombarding Gaza since Hamas militants carried out the deadliest attack on Israeli soil on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials.
The Israeli pounding has killed more than 8,000 people in Gaza and injured more than 20,000, according to Palestinian officials.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said at the weekend that thousands of families in Gaza were “sleeping in makeshift shelters or out in the open with little food and water”. It said hospitals were on the verge of collapse and wastewater plants were no longer functioning.