Herzog: An ‘absolute majority’ of the nation supports a hostage deal

President says country has ‘absolute and supreme’ duty to bring back captives taken nine months ago, nation ‘does not forget them for a moment’

President Isaac Herzog speaks during a swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)
President Isaac Herzog speaks during a swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed judges at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 23, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

Marking nine months since the October 7 Hamas massacre, President Isaac Herzog on Sunday asserted that a majority of the public is in favor of a deal to free hostages taken by Hamas terrorists during the brutal assault.

In a post on X, Herzog expressed his solidarity with the families of the victims of “the barbaric attack in which babies, women, men and the elderly were murdered, raped, tortured, and kidnapped” on October 7.

“Our commitment to return the hostages is absolute and supreme,” the president continued. “We do not forget them for a moment. The nation of Israel does not forget them for a moment. In every home and family, in every synagogue, in every community, at every public and private event – we hear from all sides the concern for the hostages, the prayer and the cry – for their quick return home.”

“The entire nation wants their return, and an absolute majority supports a hostage deal,” he said, stressing that “the country’s duty is to bring them back, and it is at the heart of the consensus.”

After months without progress, Israel’s top negotiators are in touch with mediator countries about restarting talks in the wake of Hamas’s response to an Israeli proposal on a truce and hostage deal last week.

War has raged for nine months since Hamas-led terrorists murdered 1,200 people and took 251 hostages to Gaza during their rampage through southern communities.

Protesters hold placards during a demonstration of supporters and relatives of Israelis held hostage by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza since October 7, in Tel Aviv on July 6, 2024 (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Hamas has given initial approval for the proposal for a phased truce and hostage deal, dropping a key demand that Israel give an upfront commitment for a complete end to the war, a Hamas and an Egyptian official said Saturday.

At the same time, a key stumbling block appeared to be Hamas’s desire for “written guarantees” from mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent ceasefire deal once the first phase of a ceasefire goes into effect.

Israel has voiced cautious optimism in recent days that Hamas’s position makes a deal more likely. A source in Israel’s negotiating team, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday there was now a real chance of achieving an agreement. That was in sharp contrast to past instances when Israel said conditions attached by Hamas were unacceptable.

Anti-government protesters also marked nine months of the war on Sunday with mass nationwide demonstrations calling for the hostage deal to be reached and for elections to be held.

It is believed that 116 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — some of them believed dead — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Seven hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 19 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

The IDF has confirmed the deaths of 42 of those still held by Hamas, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

One more person is listed as missing since October 7, and their fate is still unknown.

Hamas is also holding two Israeli civilians who entered the Strip in 2014 and 2015, as well as the bodies of two IDF soldiers who were killed in 2014.

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