ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Gaza war puts pressure on Hamas to free more hostages, Gallant tells families

Defense minister defends decision to resume fighting, says truce talks broke down because terror group refused to release more female abductees taken on October 7

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with family members of hostages held in Gaza, December 3, 2023 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with family members of hostages held in Gaza, December 3, 2023 (Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with family members of hostages held in Gaza Sunday — including Yelena Trufanova from Kibbutz Nir Oz, who was freed last Wednesday as part of a seven-day temporary truce with Hamas, and whose son Sasha is still held captive.

“When the military operations advance, the pressure on Hamas rises and so do our chances of returning more hostages,” Gallant told the families.

In the meeting, which has become a weekly event, Gallant said that talks to extend the Qatar-brokered truce broke down because Hamas refused to release more female hostages, and instead sought to free abductees from other categories, in violation of the agreement.

“In the name of the entire security establishment, I assure you that we are doing everything we can,” said the minister, to secure the release of the remaining 137 captives — 115 men, 20 women and two children — still believed to be held in Gaza.

Over the course of the seven day ceasefire, 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity in Gaza, including 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals, and one Filipino, in exchange for the release of 210 Palestinian prisoners, all of them women or minors.

The hostages were taken on October 7, when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed, as gunmen seized border communities, were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly.

IDF troops operate in the Gaza Strip in this handout image published on December 3, 2023. (IDF)

“Over the past two months, I’ve been working single-mindedly to achieve the aims of this war — to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities, and to bring the hostages home,” Gallant said. “And these two goals are tightly linked. Every day is crucial.”

The defense minister’s comments came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of his Likud party earlier that Israel’s efforts to free further hostages from Gaza were being made through the military campaign in the Strip.

“We are continuing now to speak with our enemy about continuing to free hostages — speaking with fire,” he said in a faction meeting on Sunday afternoon, appearing to suggest that Israel was no longer immediately pursuing an extension of the Qatar-brokered hostage deal.

The truce collapsed early Friday morning after Hamas failed to provide a list of the 10 hostages it intended to release that day, on what would have been the eighth day of the pause, and fired rockets into Israel.

In response, the IDF resumed its military offensive inside the Gaza Strip.

Both CNN and the BBC have reported that international efforts to restore the ceasefire are ongoing.

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