Only a cease-fire deal can win hostages’ release, an Israeli War Cabinet member says

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A member of Israel’s War Cabinet says that only a cease-fire deal can win the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Gadi Eisenkot added that those claiming hostages could be freed through military pressure were spreading illusions. The former army chief’s comments, broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12 television station late Thursday, were the latest sign of a growing rift among political and military leaders over the direction of Israel’s war on Hamas.

Across the Gaza Strip, Hamas militants are putting up stiff resistance. The conflict, now in its fourth month and showing no sign of ending, has also inflamed tensions across the Middle East. Gaza’s Health Ministry says more than 24,400 Palestinians have died, and the United Nations says a quarter of the 2.3 million people trapped in Gaza are starving. In Israel, around 1,200 people were killed during the October 7 attack by Hamas that sparked the war and saw some 250 people taken hostage by militants.

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A member of Israel’s War Cabinet said that only a cease-fire deal can win the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and that those claiming they can be freed through military pressure are spreading illusions. Former army chief Gadi Eisenkot, whose son was killed several weeks before while fighting in Gaza, told the investigative programme “Uvda”, broadcast on Israel’s Channel 12 television station late Thursday, that “the hostages will only return alive if there is a deal, linked to a significant pause in fighting”.

He said dramatic rescue operations are unlikely because the hostages are apparently spread out, many of them in underground tunnels. Claiming hostages can be freed by means other than a deal “is to spread illusions.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have said the fighting will continue until Hamas is crushed, and argued that only military action can win the release of the hostages.

In a thinly veiled criticism of Netanyahu, Eisenkot also said strategic decisions about the direction of the war, now in its fourth month, must be made urgently, and that a discussion about an endgame should have begun immediately after fighting started October 7 in response to the deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel. The spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says there can be “no security and stability in the region” without a Palestinian state.

The remarks come in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection Thursday of calls by the United States to take steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state after the war. “Without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital on the borders of 1967, there will be no security and stability in the region,” Palestinian state news agency Wafa quoted Abbas’ spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdeineh as saying on Thursday.

The Palestinians seek Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem – which were captured by Israel in 1967 – for their state.