Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation on Wednesday night, just hours before the hostages-for-ceasefire deal with the Hamas terror organization in the Gaza Strip was scheduled to take effect.
“It’s not always possible to free hostages through military efforts, and that’s why we are not waiting,” he said. “I believe wholeheartedly, and so do my colleagues, that this is the right decision.”
“I want to be clear: The war continues. We are going to continue until we achieve all our objectives,” he stated, including destroying Hamas, freeing the estimated 240 hostages in Gaza, and “ensuring that, the day after Hamas, there will be no more threat to Israel.”
The Israel Defense Forces’ operation will not end until “there will be no more actor in Gaza that indoctrinates their children to hate Israel,” Netanyahu added.
According to the prime minister, “what paved the way for the agreement was massive military and diplomatic pressure on Hamas.”
Hundreds of T-shirts hung in Toronto represent 240 Israeli hostages taken by Hamas
Terry Glavin: Antisemitic Ireland needs to shake off the imbecility
The Israeli Cabinet approved the hostages deal overnight Tuesday. The agreement calls for Hamas terrorists to release 50 of the hostages in exchange for a multi-day ceasefire.
The first hostages were initially expected to be released as early as 10 a.m. Thursday, with Hamas reportedly having agreed to release 12 to 13 hostages each day of the four-day truce. The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause.
Yet shortly before midnight, Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi announced that no hostages would be released before Friday.
“The start of the release will take place according to the original agreement between the sides, and not before Friday,” read a statement from Hanegbi’s office while noting that “the contacts on the release of our hostages are advancing and continuing constantly.”
During the expected ceasefire, Israel will refrain from using surveillance drones in Gaza for six hours a day. The IDF will reportedly also allow fuel to enter Gaza during that time and dramatically increase the amount of goods permitted into the Strip.
Israel’s Channel 12 News reported on Tuesday that Hamas agreed to release 30 children, eight mothers and 12 women. The terror group claimed that it could not immediately locate 10 additional children taken from southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Mossad director David Barnea traveled to Qatar on Wednesday, where he received a list of names of the hostages that are set to be released under the deal, Channel 12 reported.
‘I expect the Red Cross to do its job’
As part of the agreement, Hamas will allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the remaining hostages in Gaza and provide medical assistance to those who need it, Netanyahu reiterated on Wednesday night.
Just hours before his speech, the Red Cross told local media that it “has not been made aware of any agreement reached by both parties related to visits by the ICRC to the hostages.”
Responded Netanyahu: “I expect the Red Cross to do its job.”
In return for the hostages, Israel will commute the sentences of at least 150 female and teenage Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. They will reportedly be allowed to return to their homes in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Among the Palestinian terrorists that are under consideration for release is Nafoz Hamad, who was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison for stabbing and injuring an Israeli neighbor in front of her children.
The Israeli Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, on Wednesday dismissed a petition against the deal filed by the Almagor Terror Victims Association, with justices arguing they had no authority to weigh in on decisions of a political nature.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Wednesday night, Israeli Minister-Without-Portfolio Benny Gantz described the ceasefire deal as “one of the most difficult decisions I made in the 40 years I served this country.”
For his part, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas “made a mistake, a very great mistake.”
“On Oct. 7, Hamas waged a war against the state of Israel. They thought they would raise the flag of Hamas in the center of the Negev. … The day Hamas did those atrocious acts, it determined its fate and that of Gaza,” said Gallant.
He added that the conditions Israel agreed to were better than previous proposals due to Israel’s military campaign against Hamas.
During a phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Netanyahu thanked Washington for its efforts to bring about the deal.
“I told Biden—we are fighting. We are taking a break, but we will continue,” said Netanyahu.
Our website is the place for the latest breaking news, exclusive scoops, longreads and provocative commentary. Please bookmark nationalpost.com and sign up for our newsletters here.