update deskIsrael at War

Herzog: Commitment to freeing hostages ‘absolute and supreme’

Most Israelis back deal with Hamas, the president says.

President Isaac Herzog attends the funeral of former Foreign Minister David Levy in Beit Shean, June 3, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
President Isaac Herzog attends the funeral of former Foreign Minister David Levy in Beit Shean, June 3, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday marked nine months since Hamas’s massacre by calling for the immediate return of the 120 hostages still being held in the Gaza Strip.

“It’s nine months since the great disaster that befell us on October 7. Nine months since the barbaric attack in which babies, women, men and the elderly were brutally murdered, raped, tortured and kidnapped,” began Herzog.

“Our hearts are with the bereaved families, the physically and mentally wounded, the abductees and their families who have been working for months to return their loved ones home. Our commitment to return the hostages is absolute and supreme. We do not forget them for a moment,” he continued.

“The entire nation wants their return, and an absolute majority supports a hostage deal. In every home and family, in every synagogue, in every community, at every public and private event, we hear from all sides the concern for the hostages, the prayer and the cry for their quick return home,” he said.

Mossad Director David Barnea traveled to Doha, Qatar, over the weekend to jump-start hostage-release talks. Upon his return, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that a negotiating team would be dispatched this week to continue the talks.

“It should be emphasized that there are still gaps between the sides,” according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

A source with knowledge of the talks told Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster on Sunday that Barnea, CIA Director William Burns, Egyptian intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani are set to hold an additional four-way meeting in Doha on Wednesday.

Hamas has dropped its key demand that Jerusalem commit up front to ending the war as part of any deal, the Associated Press reported on Saturday, citing anonymous Egyptian and Hamas officials.

Mediators are working to revive President Joe Biden’s phased deal proposal presented in May, which called for an initial “full and complete” six-week ceasefire during which dozens of Israeli hostages—women, the elderly and the sick—would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons.

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