Hamas Says ‘No Chance’ of Hostage Release without Complete Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza

A person holds a placard, as families of hostages and supporters protest to call for the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas, outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, in Jerusalem, Israel, January 21, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to withdraw troops from Gaza “means there is no chance for the return of the [Israeli] captives,” a Hamas spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.

Hamas gave its most recent ultimatum after Netanyahu rejected a deal that he said would ensure that Hamas remains in power in Gaza.

“I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas,” Netanyahu said this weekend. “If we accept this, we won’t be able to guarantee the safety of our citizens. We will not be able to bring evacuees home safely and the next October 7 will only be a matter of time.”

Around 136 of the 240 Israelis Hamas took hostage on October 7 remain in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Also on Sunday, in a 16-page report, Hamas said that the terrorist organization’s October 7 massacre was “a necessary step and a normal response to confront all Israeli conspiracies against the Palestinian people.”

“If there was any case of targeting civilians; it happened accidentally and in the course of the confrontation with the occupation forces,” Hamas said in the report, adding that the attack had “maybe some faults.”

Netanyahu said in a statement that Hamas conditioned hostage release on “the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the murderers and rapists.”

President Joe Biden has advocated for Palestinian statehood when the Israel–Hamas war ends. The White House said last week after Biden and Netanyahu discussed a Palestinian state that Biden wants a “two state-solution with Israel’s security guaranteed,” while Netanyahu demanded “full Israeli security control over all the territory west of Jordan” to prevent a Palestinian state that would present “an existential threat” to Israel.

Hamas still holds six American hostages in Gaza. Biden said on the 100-day anniversary of October 7 that he would “never stop working to bring Americans home.” Ruby Chen, the father of 19-year-old American hostage, Itay Chen, urged politicians to press for the release of hostages in a USA Today op-ed on Monday.

“The United States is the richest and most powerful nation in the world, with immense financial, military and political leverage. How is it that other countries, such as Russia and Thailand, have secured the release of their citizens while only four Americans have been freed to date?” he wrote. “Why has America not demanded the release of its citizens as the dominant facilitator in ongoing negotiations?”

“I urge the Biden administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu to reevaluate their current strategy to secure the hostages’ release,” Chen continued. “I urge all of our members of Congress to use their bully pulpit to advocate for the hostages. The hostages are running out of time.”

Haley Strack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism and a recent graduate of Hillsdale College.
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