Israel to make ‘maximum effort’ to resolve hostage crisis, won’t stop aid: FM

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The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has promised to resolve the hostage crisis in Gaza and said it will not stand in the way of aid coming into the besieged enclave – but has vowed it will continue to “remove the terrorist threat” Hamas poses to its citizens.

On Tuesday, Hamas freed two women, including 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, who said militants beat her as they took her into Gaza on October 7 but was then well-treated during her two-week captivity in the Palestinian enclave.

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Three days earlier, Hamas freed American teen hostage Natalie Raanan and her mother after being abducted in Israel.

However, in a statement provided to Al Arabiya English, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that Hamas continues to hold at least 222 abducted persons, including the “bodies of murdered victims who were abducted to the Gaza Strip.”

“Although Hamas has released two US civilians, it is still holding hundreds of other abductees without providing any information regarding their condition,” it said. “Many of the abductees need medical assistance and medication and are being held while denying their most basic rights and in complete violation of international law in a manner that puts their lives in grave danger.”

The foreign ministry says Israel demands that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) be permitted to visit abductees and supply medicine and medical treatment and vowed to ensure their safety and work for their release.

They said that following the October 7 attack and the ongoing rocket fire, more than 100,000 Israelis have been displaced from their homes in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the northern border and dispersed in various shelters throughout Israel.

“This displacement augments the difficult crisis in which the survivors of the massacre perpetrated by Hamas in the towns, villages and communities surrounding the Gaza Strip find themselves,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “Israel is doing everything possible to prevent harm to non-involved persons.”

“The terrorist organizations purposely and intentionally operate from within the civilian population and adjacent to humanitarian buildings and institutions, and by doing so are committing double war crimes: indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians while using the residents of the Gaza Strip as human shields.”

The Israeli foreign ministry said, per international law, that the IDF had warned the residents of the Gaza Strip and called on them to move to the area south of Wadi Gaza to avoid civilian casualties.

Wadi Gaza (Gaza valley), which crosses Gaza from east to west in central Gaza, is the streambed that is a continuation of the Besor Stream.

“In contrast to the IDF’s efforts to minimize harm to the civilian population as much as possible, Hamas addressed Gaza’s residents and told them to ignore the IDF’s advance warnings, claiming that the IDF’s announcement about the need to evacuate was fake and called upon the residents to ‘blend in with the resistance.’”

“Hamas did so because it wants to continue to exploit the residents of Gaza as human shields for its activities. Moreover, there is a growing number of testimonies that Hamas is interfering with, and even forcefully preventing, the movement of the civilian population to the southern part of the strip.”

The foreign ministry said, in light of a request from US President Joe Biden, Israel will not prevent the passage of humanitarian supplies from Egypt as long as these “consist only of food, water and medicine for the civilian population located in the southern Gaza Strip or who are moving there, and on the condition that these supplies do not reach Hamas.”

The statement continued: “Although the aid is monitored and intended only for the residents of the Gaza Strip, it cannot be ignored that the very passage of aid largely serves Hamas, and that there is a real fear that Hamas will find a way to steal the aid for its own purposes…it should be emphasized that any supplies that reach Hamas will be thwarted.”

Israel has responded to the deadliest attack in its 75-year history by vowing to destroy Hamas, putting the entire Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people under a total siege, and bombarding the enclave in strikes that, as of October 24, have killed 5,791 people of which 2,360 were children. Millions more have been made homeless.

The foreign ministry also addressed Iran-backed Hezbollah’s “dangerous demand” for a ‘Day of Rage’ in the wake of the strike on the hospital in Gaza, which the Israeli government has blamed on the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad – saying this would “result in violence not only in our region but also in other parts of the world.”

“It must be condemned and restrained. The international community should make it clear to the axis states (Iran, Syria, and Lebanon) and to the terrorist organizations in the area that they must refrain from taking part in Hamas’ war and stipulate that they should not promote, encourage, or enable the opening of another front against Israel. The expansion of the arena of fighting against Israel will be met with determined and lethal actions by Israel and particularly harsh response.”

“Israel expects the international community to condemn the terrorist attack on Israeli citizens and to express clear support for Israel’s complete right to defend itself. Israel demands that the international community act against Hamas operatives, cells and infrastructure around the world, and to use all the political and legal tools at their disposal (designations, directives, forfeiture of funds, etc.) to prevent the organization from gaining a foothold anywhere.”

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