newsIsrael at War

‘Iran attack risks overshadowing plight of Israeli captives’

“I hope that now, there will be less international pressure against entering the Gaza Strip with a large military force," uncle of hostage tells JNS.

Relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza hold a press conference in Tel Aviv, April 13, 2024. Credit: Flash90.
Relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza hold a press conference in Tel Aviv, April 13, 2024. Credit: Flash90.

“I fear that the escalation with Iran will divert attention away from the abductees, the negotiations and the effort to return them home,” Aviram Meir, whose 21-year-old nephew Almog Meir Jan, from Or Yehuda near Tel Aviv, was one of 40 people abducted by Hamas at the Supernova music festival on Oct. 7, told JNS on Sunday.

On Saturday night, Iran and its terror proxies fired more than 300 missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles towards Israel, in a major response to the April 1 killing of several IRGC officers in Syria. The IDF and allied militaries intercepted 99% of the projectiles.

Israel’s War Cabinet convened on Sunday afternoon to discuss the country’s response to the Iranian assault.

Aviram Meir told JNS, “I hope that now, there will be less international pressure against entering the Gaza Strip with a large military force. For the whole Strip and not just Rafah.

“Hamas must understand that the price for its refusal will be heavy,” he said.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that the Hamas battalions in Rafah will be defeated, speaking amid questions about whether a full-scale conquest of Gaza’s southernmost city will take place.

“We will complete the elimination of Hamas’s battalions, including in Rafah. No force in the world will stop us. … After what [Hamas] has done, it will not do this again. Nor will it exist,” the premier said.

Earlier in the week, the IDF announced the withdrawal of ground forces from southern Gaza after four months of fighting in Khan Yunis and six months of war, leaving only one Israeli battalion in the Strip.

Netanyahu nevertheless insisted that a date has been set for the military offensive in Rafah.

‘Finish this war’

“Given the importance of the issue, bringing back the hostages and ending Israel’s war in Gaza shouldn’t take a back seat following Iran’s attack,” Itai Siegel, the nephew of elderly hostage Keith Siegel, told JNS.

Keith Siegel, 62, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, and his wife, Aviva, 64, were abducted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza during the Oct. 7 invasion. She was released on Nov. 26 as part of a ceasefire deal.

“I am sad and frustrated that again, it feels like we are back to square one and that we can’t seem to resolve the situation. I hope the talks will continue regardless and that both sides will reach an agreement to free the hostages and finish this war,” Itai Siegel added.

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 are believed to be held there. Two captives were rescued from the city by special forces in a daring military operation in February.

“We need to enter Rafah now, destroy Hamas once and for all and bring our hostages back,” Shimon Or, the uncle of hostage Avinatan Or and a member of the Tikva Forum for Families of Hostages, told JNS. 

Avinatan Or, 30, was also kidnapped from the Supernova music festival by Hamas on Oct. 7, along with his girlfriend, 26-year-old Noa Argamani.

“Gaza is the focus of Iran. If we don’t take care of what’s happening in our backyard with force, we won’t be able to handle what comes from outside,” Shimon Or said. 

“The Gazans need to understand that we will be the one in charge on the day after. Once they do, they will return our hostages. Hamas does not seek a deal, Hamas seeks chaos inside of Israel,” he said. 

Netanyahu confirmed early on Sunday morning that Hamas had rejected the latest U.S.-mediated hostages-for-ceasefire-and-terrorists proposal.

“It has been over a week since the Cairo meeting—Hamas has rejected the outline that was tabled by the mediators,” said Netanyahu’s office.

“The rejection of the proposal by the three mediators [the United States, Egypt and Qatar], which included the most significant flexibility on Israel’s part, proves that [Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya] Sinwar does not want a humanitarian deal and the return of the hostages, is continuing to exploit the tension with Iran, and is striving to unite the sectors and achieve a general escalation in the region,” the statement continued.

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