| 3 March 2024, Sunday |

Israel could secure hostages’ release via talks or ‘other means’ – Israeli official

An Israeli official told Reuters on Friday that discussions or “other means” could be used to liberate captives being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Oded Joseph said in Dubai after combat restarted in Gaza following the conclusion of a week-long temporary ceasefire that Israel was still committed to freeing all hostages and eliminating Hamas.

During the pause in fighting, dozens of hostages were exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and humanitarian aid was brought into the Gaza Strip.

“Naturally, we would reach a point where again we would want to find a way to make sure all our kidnapped are released,” Joseph said.

“Part of it might of be out of, sort of, discussions, but part of it could be by other means,” he said, without providing further details.

Israel accused Hamas of violating the temporary ceasefire agreement. Hamas said Israel bore responsibility for the end of the truce.

Mediators had sought to extend the truce by finding a way for hostage releases to continue, possibly to include Israeli men now that fewer women and children remained in captivity.

Joseph said destroying Hamas would mean the Palestinian militant group was “no longer a military threat” to Israel or the region and that it would have no “political clout” in Gaza.

Gazan officials say Israel’s bombardment – retaliation for Hamas’ deadly rampage in Israel on Oct. 7 – has killed more than 15,000 people in the enclave run by the Palestinian militants.

Washington has urged Israel to narrow its combat zone and avoid repeating the huge loss of civilian life and displacement of Palestinians seen during its offensive.

Describing the war as a “complicated mission”, Joseph said Israel was abiding by international law and seeking to minimise collateral damage “as much as possible”.

“We are fighting Hamas. We’re not fighting the Palestinian people. It’s also our objective to see minimum loss of life of civilians, either Israelis or Palestinians,” he said.

Joseph is in the United Arab Emirates for the COP28 U.N. climate summit. Israeli President Isaac Herzog met UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan there on Thursday and asked for his help freeing the hostages.

The UAE, one of few Arab states that have official diplomatic ties with Israel, has condemned Hamas for the Oct. 7 attack, in which Israel says about 1,200 people were killed and some 240 were taken hostage.

The Gulf power has called for the hostages’ release. It has also condemned Israel’s bombardment and invasion of Gaza.

“There is no daylight between the way we see extreme organisations in the region,” Joseph said.

  • Reuters