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Hostage negotiations with Hamas intensify as calls for ceasefire increase

Israel views the continuing existence of the Iran-backed terror group as an existential threat to the Jewish state and regional peace.

Israelis near the Kirya military HQ in Tel Aviv call for the release of the 133 hostages held in Gaza, March 27, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Israelis near the Kirya military HQ in Tel Aviv call for the release of the 133 hostages held in Gaza, March 27, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

U.S. and international pressure on Israel for a ceasefire intensifies as Israelis soon mark six months since the Oct. 7 attacks—and six months of relentless suffering for the families of hostages still being held in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

The U.N. Security Council recently adopted a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel for the duration of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. To meet American demands, the resolution also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held in captivity by Hamas, but not as a precondition for the ceasefire as demanded by Israel and its allies.

‘One million Oct. 7 attacks’

Hamas praised the UNSC and demanded the permanent withdrawal of “Zionist” forces from Gaza as a condition for any further negotiations. The Hamas charter clearly states its ultimate goal: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.” Israel criticized the resolution for not condemning Hamas human-rights abuses, including rape.

Israel views the continuing existence of the Iran-backed Hamas terror group as an existential threat to the Jewish state and regional peace. The Israeli government’s goals are to return the hostages and to destroy Hamas. A permanent ceasefire without the destruction of Hamas would only allow the terrorists to rearm and rebuild. A Hamas official previously stated that all violence waged by the terror group is justified and that Hamas will repeat the Oct. 7 attacks until Israel is annihilated.

Rocket Launch Pad in the Gaza Strip
Hamas terrorists launched a rocket barrage towards Israel from a humanitarian area in the central part of the Gaza Strip on March 25, 2024. Credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

‘Hamas is destroying Shifa Hospital’

As the UN resolution was under debate, Hamas terrorists fired rockets at Israeli cities for the first time in several weeks. The rocket barrage from central Gaza was launched from a humanitarian shelter where civilians are staying. Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel. The rockets were intentionally launched while Israelis were celebrating the Purim holiday, forcing them to hide in shelters.

Gaza’s Shifa Hospital once again is being used as a base for Hamas terrorists to “conduct and promote terrorist activity.” The Israeli Defense Forces arrested 500 terrorists and killed more than 170 gunmen at the northern Gaza hospital in recent days. Hamas terrorists “fired weapons from inside the hospital’s emergency room and maternity ward, and threw explosive devices from the burn ward.” Military equipment was found “hidden among medical supplies, patients and visitors who were in the hospital.”

A Hamas leader admitted that Israel arrested key Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas commanders at the hospital. He stated that these arrests “should not be underestimated.” The Israeli military is allowed to enter the hospital because the Hamas use of the medical facility for military activities means that under international law, the hospital is no longer considered a protected site. The U.S. State Department also announced that Israel is not violating international humanitarian laws in the use of weapons or blocking aid.

April 7 marks six months since the barbaric assault by Hamas terrorists against Israeli communities. This date also means the Israeli hostages have spent six months at the mercy of their captors. Six Americans remain in captivity among the 134 hostages.

Terrifying acts committed by Hamas—rape of Israeli girls and women—are continuing against the 19 Israeli female hostages who remain in captivity. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators recently introduced a resolution insisting the UNSC investigate the sexual violence and torture committed by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Recently, 28-year-old Michal Lobanov gave birth to a son while her husband Alexander is still held captive by Hamas. Michal: “The hardest moment for me was the covenant naming ceremony. Alex was missing holding the baby, cradling him. It broke us. His absence is very noticeable. There are moments when I break down, but I need to be strong for my sons.” They have a 2-year-old who is constantly asking for “Dad? Dad? Dad?”

Palestinian Terrorism in Israel
Hamas is demanding the release of terrorists who carried out the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel, in addition to the masterminds of some of the most horrific suicide bombings in Israel, including the “Passover Massacre” at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002, in exchange for the Israeli hostages. Credit: Courtesy.

Convicted killers with blood on their hands

Before the U.N. vote, the Israeli government agreed to release 700 to 800 Palestinian terrorists, including convicted murderers, in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages. This is a small fraction of the 134 hostages still in captivity. Hamas rejected the offer. The terror group demands the release of more terrorists and that it retain control of Gaza.

Hamas continues to insist on the release of the most notorious convicted terrorists. Israel is strongly against releasing terrorists with “blood on their hands,” but has made deals like this in the past to bring hostages home to their families.

It is unknown which cold-blooded murderers would be released this time. The Hamas wish list includes:

  • Hamas terrorists who carried out the Oct. 7 massacre;
  • Abdullah Barghouti, 67 life sentences for masterminding: 2002 Hebrew University bombing that killed nine, including five Americans; 2003 Sbarro pizzeria suicide bombing that killed 16 and wounded 130; 2002 Café Moment suicide bombing that killed 11 and wounded 54;
  • Abbas Al-Sayed, 35 life sentences for 2002 Park Hotel suicide bombing during Passover killing 30 and injuring 140.

Some terrorists continue to plot future attacks while in prison and many return to terrorist acts upon their release.

Points to consider:

  1. A ceasefire without Hamas surrendering will lead to more Oct. 7 attacks.

The absence of total Hamas capitulation will embolden the terrorist group to perpetrate more heinous acts, such as rocket attacks on Israeli cities, shootings and mass rapes. Its leaders openly admit that they want to carry out more of these atrocities. Hamas is a terror organization backed by Iran that does not adhere to international law. The countries pushing the United Nations for action do not seem to care that Hamas does not abide by any agreements. The survival of the terror organizations will prolong the suffering of both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. There is only one solution: disarm terrorists and hold them accountable for their actions.

  1. Hamas intentionally uses hospitals, schools and homes as launchpads to attack Israelis.

It is widely documented that Hamas terrorists intentionally integrate their military capabilities, including rocket launchers and weapons storage facilities, within civilian areas. Hamas exploits the presence of civilians to use as shields. This deliberate tactic not only violates international humanitarian law but also endangers the lives of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Hamas demonstrates a blatant disregard for the safety of its own citizens. The United Nations and many aid groups have turned a blind eye to the Hamas abuse of civilians and its open exploitation of civilian schools, homes and hospitals.

  1. Hamas terrorism, UNRWA and Palestinian incitement prevent peace.

Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups are determined to destroy Israel and kill as many Jews as possible. The United Nations agency solely dedicated to the Palestinians, UNRWA, actually perpetuates dependency and prevents them from developing a civil society. Palestinian incitement—taught at UNRWA schools and broadcast on Palestinian government TV—promotes hatred and violence instead of fostering dialogue and reconciliation. A senior Hamas leader was a teacher at an UNRWA school. These alarming problems prolong the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and must be addressed to create an environment for negotiations and sustainable efforts for a Palestinian-Israeli peace accord.

  1. Israeli hostages must be released unconditionally.

The release of Israeli hostages is urgent. Every moment in captivity inflicts suffering and hardship on the hostages and their families. The international community must stand in solidarity with Israel, unequivocally condemning any act of hostage-taking and demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages.

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