The head of Israel’s National Security Council, Tzachi Hanegbi, gave a press briefing on Saturday, denying reports of ongoing negotiations about the hostages taken back to Gaza by Hamas during the terror attack last Saturday.
Media reports about Qatar leading negotiations to free Israeli hostages, especially women and children, are false, Hanegbi said.
“I cannot say that there are negotiations because it is not possible to hold negotiations with an enemy that we want to wipe out,” Hanegbi said, adding that Israel remains committed locating the hostages and the large number of people that are still unaccounted for.
Israel has created a special task force under the command of Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch to coordinate and focus all efforts to gather information about the hostages and missing persons in the aftermath of the brutal Hamas assault against Israel one week ago.
Hanegbi explained: “First of all, you have to try and understand the most basic figure: where are the children, the boys, the girls, the parents. We are trying to do it under combat conditions, while the enemy is doing evil manipulation which, in itself, is a war crime.”
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Daniel Hagari confirmed that the IDF has already conducted raids into the Gaza Strip to gather more information about the hostages.
The overall number of hostages taken to Gaza is between 150 and 200, Hanegbi stated.
Hanegbi responded to videos published by Hamas showing the release of some hostages, as well as other videos showing Hamas fighters holding Israeli children.
“The enemy does evil manipulations. We have been used to this for nine years,” said Hanegbi.
“They do not volunteer information. We are committed to this issue. We sent people into the battlefield and the Gaza Strip and we will certainly not give up until we can find out what happened to them and try as much as possible to bring them back.”
Hanegbi also took personal responsibility for his wrong assessment of Hamas’ intentions and capabilities but resolutely denied reports that Israel was warned by Egyptian officials of an incoming attack before last Saturday.
Former Mossad Director Yossi Cohen also spoke about the hostage situation in a wide-ranging interview with Israel’s Channel 12 news on Saturday.
In the interview, Cohen agreed with Hanegbi's assessment about the hostages becoming a burden for Hamas.
“To a large extent this is true. The fact that Hamas is detaining women, adults, children, babies does not serve it and we have to argue [to the world] – there is an exaggeration here, a breach of all limitations,” he said, adding that he is involved in an unspecified capacity in those efforts.
“We are using pressure levers, I am part of using the pressure levers,” the former spy agency director said.
When asked if he knew of Israeli raids to free hostages, Cohen answered, “Raids? I don't know and even if I did, I wouldn't say.”
Regarding Israel's policy so far regarding Gaza, Cohen said, "I am very much in favor of not flinching at the issue of the siege and not letting in a drop of water or diesel or electricity – that’s how you take the initiative, and [Hamas] is locked inside himself and holding prisoners in a way that is unacceptable to anyone,” Cohen stated.
In his estimation, “Oxygen, water, and food will also run out in the Hamas bunkers, and then a door will be opened for a decision and a breakthrough on the issue of the abductees.”
According to Cohen, there was a clear “Iranian stamp” on the Hamas attack.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.