Israeli aide tells captives’ families no deal to be made soon

Throughout the war, relatives of the captives in Gaza have held regular demonstrations to pressure Netanyahu’s government to ensure their safe return [Getty]

The families of the Israeli captives have accused Israel’s government of “abandoning” them, saying officials are choosing to prioritise political interests and prolonging the fighting in Gaza.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, a group made up of relatives of the captives taken by Hamas and other Palestinian groups on 7 October, slammed the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to achieve a hostage deal eight months since 252 people were taken to Gaza.

Netanyahu has been facing increasing pressure from the Israeli public to see the safe return of the captives and there have been near-weekly anti-government demonstrations in Tel Aviv.

Around 120 Israelis, including elderly men, women and children, remain unaccounted for in Gaza. So far, the Israeli military has only managed to rescue two alive and the army believes at least 37 are dead.

Earlier this week, the Islamic Jihad group in Gaza released a video of 28-year-old captive Sasha Trupanov, who can be seen speaking in Hebrew in the 30-second clip.

In the past few months, the army has returned six dead bodies to Israel. Palestinian armed groups have maintained that the intensity of Israel’s military attacks and siege on Gaza is threatening the safety of the captives.

In a statement carried by the Times of Israel on Friday, The Hostages and Missing Families Forum accused the government of choosing to “sacrifice the hostages”.

“The captives, and the entire State of Israel, have been taken hostage by those who choose political interests over their national duties,” the statement reads.

The statement added that the government had decided to “to withdraw from a fundamental moral principle according to which Israel will never leave anyone behind, and prefer to continue the fighting over achieving the main goal of freeing the hostages who were abandoned by the government”.

The criticism follows a reportedly heated meeting in Tel Aviv between a senior security official and relatives of the captives on Thursday.

Head of the National Security Council Tzachi Hanegbi admitted to families that the Israeli government is unlikely to stop the war in exchange for the safe return of the hostages.

In a tense exchange, Hanegbi reportedly got angry at the daughter of a captive, after she said it was not right that Netanyahu had received public funding to renovate his personal swimming pool during the war, according to Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

Hanegbi told relatives that he believed that the first stage for a hostage exchange could happen in “a few short months” but admitted that fighting will continue in Gaza and in the north, referring to Israel’s aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon.

After that, he was reported to have said that only then would the government “sit down to evaluate the situation”.

The security aide went on to say he does not believe the government “will succeed in completing the deal”.

“This government won’t make a decision to stop the war for returning all the hostages. We must continue fighting, so there’s no October 7 in October 2027 either,” Hanegbi said.

During the course of the eight-month war, the Israeli public have grown increasingly angered by Netanyahu’s failure to prioritise the safe return of the captives.

A November temporary truce deal mediated by Qatar saw a seven day pause of bombardment and the release of 102 captives from Gaza. In return, Israel released 210 Palestinian prisoners. Those released from Gaza included foreign nationals, including a Filipino, Thai citizens and a dual Israeli-Russian citizen.

The truce deal was initially set to last four days but was extended twice.

However, Israel’s prime minister has persistently reiterated that he wants to dismantle Hamas’ capabilities, despite international outcry over the war’s impact on Gaza’s civilians, with over 110,000 killed or wounded since October.

The most recent truce deal which was turned down by Israel would have seen the return of captives in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, but Israel has repeatedly rejected a deal which includes an outright end to the war, as demanded by Hamas.

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