update deskIsrael at War

Gantz: Israel should withdraw from Gaza for hostage deal

"If there is a change in the fighting and our hostages are returned, and we do what needs to be done in the Gaza Strip in a year, or in two years, that's not an issue."

Minister-without-Portfolio in Israel's War Cabinet Benny Gantz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 27, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Minister-without-Portfolio in Israel's War Cabinet Benny Gantz at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Nov. 27, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Israel should agree to withdraw from the Gaza Strip as part of a long-term ceasefire deal with the Hamas terrorist group, opposition leader Benny Gantz stated over the weekend, days after withdrawing his National Unity Party from the wartime government.

“I want the hostages to return home,” the former War Cabinet minister told Israel’s Channel 12 News on Thursday night. “If there is a change in the fighting and our hostages are returned, and we do what needs to be done in the Gaza Strip in a year, or in two years, that’s not an issue.”

“I want the hostages home, I want to have strong security, and then we can continue what needs to be continued,” added Gantz.

The National Unity Party leader did a round of interviews with Hebrew media on Thursday, four days after announcing his departure from the wartime unity government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Announcing his decision to exit the government set up in the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, Gantz accused the premier of preventing the Israel Defense Forces from “reaching a true victory.”

Gantz also demanded that Netanyahu do “everything he can” to advance U.S. President Joe Biden’s outline for a truce agreement.

Hamas has consistently pressed Israel to end the war as part of the hostage deal, a demand that Jerusalem has described as “delusional.”

In a separate sit-down interview with the Kan News public broadcaster on Thursday night, the politician touched on the fate of the Bibas family—Kfir, 1, Ariel, 4, and their parents Shiri, 32, and Yarden, 34.

Asked if Jerusalem knows what happened to the youngest hostage taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, Gantz replied, “I think so,” adding that the Israeli public would be informed of their fate “when things come to fruition.”

“We have to make every effort so that they will all return,” said Gantz, adding that the Bibas children are a “painful symbol of the campaign.”

In a statement published following the Kan News interview, relatives of the Bibas family slammed the former IDF chief of staff for speculating on national television without informing the family beforehand.

“We are in continuous and daily contact with the intelligence agencies and genuinely believe that we will hear good news,” the statement said.

“We ask elected officials who express themselves on the issue not to create irresponsible speculations,” said the family, emphasizing that “there is no conclusive information” about what happened to the four.

In late November, the IDF announced it was investigating claims by Hamas that three members of the Bibas family, including the then 10-month-old Kfir, died in Gaza captivity. The military said it was “assessing the accuracy of the information” shared by the terrorist organization.

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