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US and Western leaders call for release of hostages as Sullivan visits Israel and Saudi Arabia

Western nations link hostage release deal to 'sustainable, permanent ceasefire'

Israelis attend a rally calling for the release of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at "Hostage Square" in Tel Aviv, May 18, 2024. (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Saudi Arabia and Israel on Saturday evening to discuss strategic defense agreements, believed to include steps toward normalization with Israel.

At the same time, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew spoke to a rally at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, telling hostage families and others attending: “I stand with you here to reaffirm the commitment of the United States that we will not stop working every day to bring the hostages home.” 

“The United States continues to press ahead mediation efforts to bring the hostages home,” Lew said. “To the family members of those held hostage, I say we hear you. We stand with you.” 

Lew also linked the release of the hostages to peace efforts in the region. 

“Hamas must release the hostages so that this crisis can end, and we can focus our efforts on bringing peace and stability to the region,” Lew said. 

The U.S. ambassador to Israel was joined by ambassadors from Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom in addressing the rallies in Tel Aviv. 

British Ambassador to Israel Simon Walters read out a statement from Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

“Our message is clear: Hamas must release every single hostage immediately,” the message said, adding that any accompanying ceasefire “must turn into a sustainable, permanent ceasefire and a new plan for Gaza to ensure that this never happens again.” 

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke to the rally at Hostage Square in a pre-recorded statement.

“I know, having met family members of hostages, how deep the pain is, and I know that you will never stop advocating for the release of your loved ones.” 

German Ambassador to Israel Stefan Seibert addressed the crowd in Hebrew, telling them that Berlin had inaugurated its own Hostage Square last week. 

“We must tell everyone that there is nothing more important than bringing the abductees home. This should be the ultimate goal,” Seibert said. 

Sullivan was expected to land in Israel on Sunday following a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) earlier in the day. 

According to a statement released after the meeting, the two discussed “the semi-final version of the draft strategic agreements between the Saudi Kingdom and the United States of America.” 

Sullivan and MBS also reportedly discussed “what is being worked on between the two sides in the Palestinian issue to find a credible path” towards “a two-state solution that meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.” 

While in Israel, Sullivan is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and provide an update on the discussions with the Saudi crown prince.

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

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