update deskIsrael at War

Gallant briefs US counterpart on war, hostage-release effort

The defense chiefs also discussed "ongoing threats posed by Iranian aggression...[and] scenarios involving regional escalation."

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, March 26, 2024. Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza/U.S. Department of Defense.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, March 26, 2024. Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza/U.S. Department of Defense.

In a phone call on Monday night with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant discussed developments in the war against Hamas, with a focus on efforts to secure the release of the 133 hostages held in Gaza.

Gallant “expressed his appreciation to Austin and the U.S. administration for their leadership on this issue,” and “briefed the secretary [of defense] on operations in Gaza and measures taken to prepare troops for future missions, as well as measures taken to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid,” according to an Israeli readout of the call.

The two also discussed “ongoing threats posed by Iranian aggression, including via Iranian proxy Hezbollah. They discussed coordination in the face of scenarios involving regional escalation,” according to the readout.

Finally, Gallant thanked Austin for “their ongoing communication and for the longstanding support shown by the secretary and the entire U.S. administration.”

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had set a date for the military offensive against the remaining Hamas terror battalions in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

The Israeli government has repeatedly emphasized that telling Israel to refrain from operating in Rafah is equivalent to demanding that it lose the war. Many of the 133 hostages still in the hands of Hamas after 185 days are believed to be held in Rafah.

Hamas on Monday night reportedly rejected the latest U.S. proposal, which included the release of additional Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, in exchange for a three-stage pause in fighting and a release of 40 hostages.

Hamas has rejected all previous ceasefire proposals, demanding a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and unrestricted movement of Palestinians from the south of Gaza to the northern part of the Strip.

Israel’s Diplomatic-Security Cabinet is convening on Tuesday at the demand of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, with the topics on the agenda to include the ongoing truce talks and the state of the war in Gaza. The minister was set to put two proposals on the table during the meeting.

The first involves securing an American commitment to back Israel’s return to combat after a six-week pause in the fighting, and in particular a ground operation in Rafah in southern Gaza, as a condition for completing a deal.

The second aims to ensure that, as part of the Israeli concessions being discussed in Cairo, there will be no free movement of residents of the Strip from south to north, which would allow Hamas to reorganize and maintain its force.

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