Israel can’t wait 7 months for Gaza hostage deal: US officials

Netanyahu is under immense pressure from Israelis, especially hostage families, to secure a deal with Hamas [Getty/file photo]

Israel needs to prioritise reaching a hostage deal with Hamas “immediately” to avoid putting remaining captives’ lives in danger, and cannot afford to wait any longer, US officials have told their Israeli counterparts.

The advice to speed up negotiations, as reported by Haaretz, comes in response to a statement by the Israeli premier’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, that the war on Gaza will last at least another seven months.

The offensive is nearly in its eighth month and has already killed over 36,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, rendering much of the Gaza Strip uninhabitable.

But waiting that long for the war to end puts hostages lives at risk, one US official told Haaretz.

“Without getting into the question of whether or not the war should indeed last so many months, one thing is clear and must be said: we have to get a deal now,” the American official said.

“The hostages in Gaza can’t wait seven more months. Every passing day increases the likelihood that they won’t come back alive,” the official added.

During the Hamas-led October 7 attack in southern Israel, around 250 hostages were taken to Gaza, and about 1,170 Israelis were killed. Some 130 remain in besieged enclave, including around 37 who have died, according to Israeli tallies.

Hamas says its operation came in response to decades of Israeli violence against the Palestinians and the occupation of their lands.

Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crush Hamas but has instead drawn global condemnation for his military’s brutal conduct in the Palestinian territory and the colossal death toll.

The far-right prime minister has insisted that going into the city of Rafah was essential to end Hamas, promising a “total victory” within a short time.

But Hanegbi’s remarks about the war lasting seven months seemed to contradict Netanyahu’s.

Netanyahu is under immense pressure from Israelis, especially hostage families, to secure a deal with Hamas

“We share that view – releasing the hostages is necessary for an Israeli victory over Hamas,” Haaretz quoted the American official as saying.

“The question is how do we get there. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be able to achieve this goal if we now have to wait many months. I’m sure the Israeli government gets it as well.”

Prospects for a resumption of Gaza ceasefire talks grew over the weekend, even as Israel continued its brutal and indiscriminate military campaign in Rafah despite the top United Nations court ordering Israel last week to stop attacking Gaza’s southernmost city.

The US, Qatar and Egypt are mediating the talks, but tensions have grown dramatically between Cairo and Tel Aviv since Israel’s takeover the Rafah border crossing earlier this month, and on Thursday its full takeover the Philadelphi Corridor inside Gaza.

Egypt has refused to send aid through the Rafah crossing as long as it is under Israeli control.

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