Israel to Tell Blinken Palestinians Can’t Return to the North Until New Hostage Deal

Israel just killed a senior Hamas official who was involved in negotiations, making prospects of a deal much less likely

Israeli officials are expected to tell Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Israel won’t allow Palestinians who fled north Gaza to return home until a new hostage deal is reached with Hamas, Axios reported on Monday.

Blinken is in the region and is due to meet with Israeli officials on Tuesday. On Sunday, during a visit to Qatar, Blinken said, “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow.”

His comments came amid a global backlash over comments from Israeli ministers who are calling for the expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza. The US has framed this position as a fringe Israeli view, and Israeli President David Herzog has insisted it’s not the policy of the government despite Israeli media reports saying otherwise. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he’s looking for other countries to “absorb” Palestinians.

In response to Blinken’s comments about Palestinians returning to the north, where most buildings and homes have been destroyed, an Israeli official told Axios: “We are not going to allow Palestinians to go back to their homes in northern Gaza if there is no progress with the release of hostages.”

A new hostage deal became much less likely last week when Israel launched a drone strike in Beirut that killed Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau, who played a key role in negotiating the agreement that resulted in over 100 Israelis and over 200 Palestinians being freed.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani has told family members of Israeli hostages held in Gaza that the Israeli assassination made Qatar’s mediation efforts much more difficult.

The Israeli military has said it’s winding down operations in northern Gaza and is focusing on central and southern areas, where the majority of the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in the strip are located. So far, over 23,000 Palestinians have been killed in the US-backed Israeli slaughter in Gaza.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.