Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Cabinet met on Tuesday with some of the freed hostages, as well as families of those still being held in Gaza.
Recordings and notes from the meeting were leaked to Israeli news media outlets on Wednesday, revealing deep-seated anger towards Netanyahu and other members of the government over the initial Hamas surprise invasion, the efforts to free hostages and the danger that hostages are still facing from IDF strikes in Gaza.
Several released hostages demanded that the government publicize the accounts of what happened to them in captivity.
“I experienced captivity and I understand its hardships," one of the former captives shared with the prime ministers. "Every day in captivity was extremely challenging. We were in tunnels, terrified that it would not be Hamas but Israel that would kill us, and then they would say Hamas killed you.”
One hostage who was released with her children but without her husband said, “We felt as though no one was doing anything for us. The reality is that I was in a hideout that was bombed and we became wounded refugees.”
She said the Israeli government puts the hostages at risk.
“My husband was separated from us three days before we returned to Israel and was taken to the tunnels. And you're talking about flooding the tunnels with seawater? You are bombing tunnel routes exactly where they are located.”
Netanyahu told the hostages and the families: “I came with my colleagues to hear you out. There is still much darkness to dispel, and everyone must be brought back. I have heard the fear, the humiliation, the suffering, the torture and the abuse. This has shaken the entire world, and it's crucial to continue speaking out.”
However, the prime minister also told the hostages and families there was no guarantee that Israel would have the ability to bring everyone back at the same time. He said that it was only Israel's the ground operations that sparked a willingness from Hamas to begin the hostage deal negotiations.
“The first thing you asked is whether we have the ability to bring everyone back at once. It's important to know, and my colleagues can confirm this, that this capability did not exist. Until we initiated the ground invasion, there was nothing.”
He also told the hostages that leaders had heard their statements about the danger of Israeli strikes and bombings.
“The second matter you raised, which is distressing, is hearing about the ordeals you endured with our bombings and military operations, those of the IDF, and it continues. It's true. I find it deeply saddening. I can assure you that it's not just saddening, as my colleagues will affirm, it also influences their operational considerations. And if you intended to convey this message, you have succeeded.”
Several families demanded that the government agree to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners currently serving time in Israeli jails in exchange for releasing all of the remaining hostages, in accordance with the demand by Hamas.
Recently Hamas has stated that there would be no further hostage deal without a total ceasefire, in contrast to the temporary pause in fighting negotiated with Qatar and Egypt. Israel is unwilling to agree to a total ceasefire until the hostages are released.
Several freed hostages also spoke about the deteriorating conditions for hostages in Gaza, saying many are not receiving the proper care and are “living on borrowed time.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.