When the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed on Friday, it was because of the women. The deal had been that Hamas would free most of the remaining women and children in its captivity in exchange for a pause in fighting. Hamas still holds 137 Israeli hostages, among them 17 women. In talks last week, Hamas refused to send a list of the next batch of women—apparently around 10—to be released, but suddenly offered to start discussing the release of elderly men instead.
The Israelis were stunned. “Our deal was [releasing] the women,” one senior Biden administration official told me about the collapse and the Israelis’ thinking. “We’ll take the men, sure, but they’re not going to jump the line.” Still, Hamas refused to release the remaining women in its custody, the ceasefire collapsed, and we’re now back to watching the resumption and expansion of Israel’s military operation in Gaza.