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Netanyahu confirms Israel engaged in new talks on releasing hostages

"We are holding contacts at this very moment. I cannot detail the status. We are working to return them all," said the Israeli prime minister

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Dec. 24, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Cabinet meeting at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Dec. 24, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

During a meeting on Thursday with representatives of captives still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that his government was engaged in negotiations to return “everyone.”

“This is our goal,” Netanyahu told representatives of 28 families, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

“We are holding contacts at this very moment. I cannot detail the status. We are working to return them all,” stated the premier, in an apparent reference to renewed negotiations with the Hamas terror organization.

According to local reports, Netanyahu described the indirect negotiations, which have mainly been conducted through Qatar and Egypt, as a “tug of war” with ups and downs, and assured families the military pressure on Hamas was bearing fruit.

During Thursday’s meeting, which also included the prime minister’s wife, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Gal Hirsch, Israel’s coordinator for the captives, families of the hostages expressed concerns about the well-being of their loved ones, Netanyahu’s office said.

“We are all here for you to help in any way we can,” said Sara Netanyahu, adding that she sent letters to more than 30 female leaders worldwide, asking them to put pressure on the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist the hostages.

“What Hamas has done are crimes against humanity. We all pray for the well-being of all our hostages, and for their safe and speedy return,” concluded the prime minister’s wife.

Israel’s War Cabinet is scheduled to convene later on Thursday evening to discuss a Qatari proposal for the release of a number of hostages in return for a ceasefire in Gaza, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported.

Mossad chief David Barnea and Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, the Israel Defense Forces’ point man for hostage negotiations, will brief the Cabinet on the latest proposal, Channel 12 said, without citing a source.

The proposed truce would entail a halt in hostilities for approximately two weeks in exchange for the release of 40 female, minor and elderly hostages. In addition, Jerusalem would release a large group of Palestinian terrorists, including ones convicted of murder.

Earlier this week, Egyptian negotiators put forward a proposal for a “comprehensive” ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would see all captives freed in exchange for far-reaching Israeli concessions.

The Egyptian initiative seeks to end Israel’s operation against Hamas, release the remaining hostages in return for convicted terrorists, and incorporate Hamas into the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, Channel 12 News reported on Sunday, citing Saudi reports.

Egyptian state media reported on Thursday that Cairo has yet to receive formal responses from Israel and Hamas, per Israel’s Ynet. During a visit to Egypt on Friday, a delegation of Hamas terrorists will reportedly convey the comments of the various Palestinian factions.

In a statement published on Sunday evening, Netanyahu vowed to “continue to fight until absolute victory over Hamas.

“This is the only way to return our hostages, eliminate Hamas and ensure that Gaza will no longer be a threat to Israel. This will take time, but we are united—the soldiers, the people and the government. We are united and determined to fight until the end,” the premier said.

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