Hamas’ Hardline Hostage Position Continues while Israeli Defense Minister Tells Troops Rafah Op Aids Goal of Returning Hostages

Defense Minister Gallant speaking with troops in Rafah area. Photo courtesy of Ariel Hermoni (IMoD).

Israel on Sunday warned that Hamas continues to cling to hardline positions in negotiations over releasing more than a hundred hostages kidnapped by the terror group from Israel on October 7. The negotiations have been at a stalemate for months, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office indicated that sufficient progress has not been made. Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant noted that returning the hostages and Israel’s broader diplomatic goals are linked to the military success in Gaza, specifically the operation in the Rafah region.

The Sunday evening statement from Netanyahu’s office translated by Israel from Hebrew said that while the Israeli leader has “repeatedly given the negotiating team a broad mandate for the release of our hostages, [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able to carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this.”

With that in the background, and as Israel has faced increasing pressure to stop fighting Hamas terrorists still holed up in the Rafah area of Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant made it clear on Sunday the IDF troops there have one mission—to defeat Hamas. And while distinct, Israel’s broader diplomatic considerations are linked to that mission.

Said Gallant to the reserve troops in the Rafah area: “Remember, your job is to eliminate Hamas, to win this war. Our job is to take it [your achievements] and take it to the next level in Gaza and across the Middle East. These issues are connected.”

Gallant’s comments come as broader Middle East considerations—ranging from the hostage crisis, to the conflict with the Palestinians, to potential normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia—loom in the background.

Regarding the hostages, Gallant—whose comments were published in an Israeli press release—said Israel is “making tremendous efforts and will continue to do so”, using both military activities and via negotiations with Hamas.

Gallant made it clear the troops’ work aided that effort. “Efforts to return the hostages [home] are ongoing, even at this very moment. Our goals of returning the hostages and dismantling Hamas, are emphasized by our actions in Rafah.”

The hostages were taken as part of the massive terror attack launched by Hamas on October 7, in which the Palestinian terror group killed 1,200 Israelis—mostly civilians—and kidnapped more than 200.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, May 26, 2024)

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