update deskIsrael at War

Katz: Return of hostages is foreign ministry’s top priority

"Today, I assumed the position of foreign minister. Our top priority—the hostages. The hostages. The hostages," said incoming Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Transport Ministry in Jerusalem, June 23, 2019. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Transport Ministry in Jerusalem, June 23, 2019. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

Newly-installed Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Tuesday vowed to make the return of the more than 120 hostages still held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip his ministry’s top priority.

“Today, I assumed the position of foreign minister. My message to the employees was succinct. Our top priority—the hostages. The hostages. The hostages,” tweeted Katz.

“This is our commitment to the people and families,” he added.

Katz took the reins as Israel’s top diplomat on Tuesday during a ceremony in Jerusalem, taking over from Eli Cohen under a rotation deal agreed to back in December 2022. Cohen, a fellow Likud Party member, will replace Katz as energy and infrastructure minister.

“We are in the midst of a third world war against Iran and radical Islam,” Katz told attendees on Tuesday, per Ynet. “The actions of this enemy remind us of the darkest periods in the history of mankind. We are determined, and we will achieve the goal of toppling Hamas.

“Our commitment as a country and as a ministry is, first of all, to return the hostages home, using new initiatives and by exerting global pressure,” he continued.

Hamas still holds roughly 129 hostages, although not all of them are believed to be alive. One hundred ten have been released, most in a deal that Hamas violated on Nov. 28.

Katz on Tuesday said his ministry would fight to preserve international legitimacy for Israel’s military operations against Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north.

Among other initiatives, he plans to “exert political pressure on Hezbollah in order to create an outline for the implementation of [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1701 in order to bring about its withdrawal from the northern border,” he said at his installation ceremony.

Iran-backed Hezbollah has been testing the waters, initiating a series of fire exchanges at the border as the Jewish state fights Hamas in Gaza. Since Oct. 7, five Israeli civilians and nine military personnel have been killed on the northern border.

Katz, 68, the son of Romanian Holocaust survivors, first ran for Knesset in 1996 and previously served as foreign minister from February 2019 to May 2020. He has also held the Agriculture, Transport, Finance and Intelligence portfolios.

Katz had served as energy and infrastructure minister since the Netanyahu-led government was voted into power just over a year ago.

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