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Former War Cabinet Minister Gantz claims IDF knows fate of Bibas family, criticizes Netanyahu's handling

Pictures of the Bibas family hang on a wall outside the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Photo: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

In an interview with Israeli media on Thursday, National Unity party leader Benny Gantz stated the IDF has some knowledge about the fate of Shiri, Yarden, Ariel and Kfir Bibas without elaborating further.

When asked by reporters, Gantz said, “I think Israel knows what happened to the members of the Bibas family. The public will know when it will be possible to verify things."

The Bibas family members – parents Shiri (32) and Yarden (34), with their two sons, Ariel (4) and Kfir (9 months old) at the time – were brutally abducted from their home on Kibbutz Nir Oz by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7

Shiri’s parents, also living on Nir Oz, were found murdered in the aftermath of the attack.

In late November, Israel Defense Forces reported that Hamas had transferred Shiri and her two children to another terror group inside the Gaza Strip, possibly in the southern city of Khan Younis.

Attempts to secure the release of the Bibas family during the ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in November were unsuccessful. Hamas later claimed that the family had been killed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, although the IDF found no evidence supporting the claim, calling it “psychological warfare.”

On Feb. 19, the IDF showed the family's relatives a video with Shiri and her children still alive days after their abduction. 

For the past eight months, during Israel's ongoing war against Hamas, there has been a nationwide campaign on behalf of the Bibas family, as well as international pressure on Egypt and Qatar to assist in facilitating the family’s release.

In Thursday’s interview, Gantz emphasized, “Bringing home the hostages must be a top priority, even at the expense of changing the fighting in Gaza. The longer Israel has waited and waited for a hostage release deal, the cost has risen… Sinwar sits in the tunnels and doesn’t really care about his people, and all the pressure only increases on Israel.”

Gantz then accused Netanyahu of blocking his own hostage deal proposal, stating, "He approved a plan to return hostages and did nothing to promote it due to political considerations. Netanyahu did not advance the matter strongly enough."

Addressing the deadlock with Hamas, Gantz noted, "Hamas rejected the Israeli proposal. Despite this, we need to do everything to move the plan forward." He emphasized the complexity of dealing with Hamas, remarking, "The fact is that there was a plan to bring hostages home, but Hamas stopped it."

Gantz also denied claims of being a mouthpiece for the Biden administration.

"I am not an envoy of the U.S. government; stop inventing such claims." The former chief also criticized Netanyahu for not employing his connections with Washington, noting, "They [in the U.S.] were impressed with how I am more militant than Netanyahu.”

Gantz said about his future political plans, "The political map will change after the next elections. We will need to form a true unity government. I don't want to make calculations that can't be made. Netanyahu cannot be prime minister. I can be prime minister."

The Likud party gave a statement prior to Gantz's interview, stating, "It is unfortunate that Gantz decided to sit in TV studios tonight instead of in the cabinet, which continues to do everything to return the hostages and eliminate Hamas." 

The National Unity party responded, "What is unfortunate is that Netanyahu continues to sit for discussions without making strategic decisions that would return our hostages, return the residents of the North home, and eliminate Hamas."

"Discussions do not win – only actions."

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich responded to Gantz's interview on 𝕏, noting, "Gantz's statements in favor of ending the war are shameful and surrender to Sinwar and moral and national bankruptcy."

"In front of the tired generals stand the courageous soldiers who continue to fight bravely and will bring victory to the people of Israel and the return of the hostages," Smotrich said. 

There are speculations that the Bibas family might be held captive near Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, potentially being used as human shields against any Israeli efforts to capture or kill him in the tunnels beneath Gaza.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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