The Washington Post reports that Israel, the US and Hamas have agreed to a tentative deal that would free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza, in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting.
Under the terms of the agreement, according to the article, all parties to the conflict would freeze combat operations for at least five days while an initial 50 or more hostages are released in batches every 24 hours.
The stop in fighting is also intended to allow a significant increase in humanitarian assistance.
Although we hope and pray for the immediate release of the hostages, the office of PM Netanyahu denied any deal regarding the hostages in a press conference this evening.
REMINDER: reports of a temporary ceasefire agreement should not be treated as fact until confirmed by Israeli officials.
— Israel War Room (@IsraelWarRoom) November 19, 2023
We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal. https://t.co/rbSqcqfaKo
— Adrienne Watson (@NSC_Spox) November 19, 2023
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks at a press conference this evening, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz:
“I would like to open with heartfelt condolences to the families of our heroic soldiers who have fallen in the Gaza Strip. We all embrace the families with boundless love and we all salute the fallen heroes. They fought for us all, to defend our home, and thanks to them our lives are assured. May their memories be blessed and may G-d avenge them.
Today I also saw the march of the hostages’ families. I would like to tell the hostages’ families: We are marching with you. I am marching with you. The entire people of Israel are marching with you. Your loved ones are in our hearts and before our eyes constantly.
Concerning the hostages, there are many unsubstantiated rumors, many incorrect reports. I would like to make it clear: As of now, there has been no deal. But I want to promise: When there is something to say – we will report to you about it.
We are aware of the terrible suffering, the nightmare that the families are in. We look at the photographs and then we think: This is my son. This is my daughter. This is my husband, my wife, my parents. This evening, I invited representatives of the families to meet with the War Cabinet later in the week in order to clarify how important this subject is to all of us – to me and my colleagues here, to all of us.
Citizens of Israel, until now in the war, we have achieved much: We have eliminated thousands of terrorists. We have eliminated senior commanders. We have destroyed administrative centers. We have destroyed tunnels – and we continue. We will continue onward with full force.
These achievements have been attained due to three main items: First – the heroism and sacrifice of our sons and daughters. I have met with the fighting men and women from all corps – sea, land and air and from all of the security services. I have met fighting women from Caracal and armored units, which have eliminated dozens of terrorists in exemplary combat. I met with the Bedouin Patrol Battalion in which Jews, Bedouin and Christians fight shoulder-to-shoulder in or order to safeguard the home of us all. I met female lookouts, whose colleagues fell on the first day of the war, and with tears in their eyes, who are continuing to watch over us all. Thanks to the brave fighting men and women of the IDF, the ISA and the Israel Police, thanks to the soldiers and commanders of the divisions that have broken through forward into Gaza with supreme heroism, and who are unstoppable – we will win.
The second thing that has brought the achievements is the unity and determination of the people. I have met with mayors from the north and the south, who give – in their names and those of their residents – full backing to the IDF, the ISA, the security services and the government. They all tell me: ‘Continue. Do not stop. I have heard this from the evacuees, the wounded and the families of our fallen heroes, who say precisely the same things with mournful hearts but with a steadfast spirit. This spirit, the Israeli spirit that beats within us all, civilians and soldiers alike, is the second condition for achieving victory.
And the third thing that has brought the achievement is a ‘diplomatic Iron Dome’ that allows us to continue fighting until victory. I would like to tell you, citizens of Israel, after 43 days of difficult fighting, this is not self-evident. I greatly appreciate the US, under the leadership of our friend President Joe Biden, who sees eye-to-eye the common interest with Israel. The US has sent to the Middle East aircraft carriers and their support vessels, and a special submarine, and it is constantly sending us vital munitions.
But even within the US and around the world, increasingly heavy pressure has been used against us in recent weeks. I would like to share with you some of the pressures that we have rebuffed and are continuing to rebuff: Many people around the world demanded that we not enter the Gaza Strip – we did so. They pressured us not to enter Gaza City – we did so. They warned us not to enter Shifa even though it served as a central terrorist base for Hamas – we did so.
They pressured us to agree to a full ceasefire – we refused and I have made it clear: We will only agree to a temporary ceasefire and only in exchange for the return of our hostages. Together with my colleagues, I reject these pressures and say to the world: We will continue to fight until victory – until we destroy Hamas and bring our hostages back home.
I am the student of my father, Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu, and I am the student of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. From both of them I learned a fundamental principle of leading a military-diplomatic campaign: It is impossible to establish military victory without diplomatic backing, and it is impossible to establish diplomatic backing without turning both to leaders and to public opinion in their countries. This is exactly the effort that I have been leading with my colleagues since the outbreak of the war. We are insisting on our vital security and diplomatic interests, and I must tell you, in the face of difficult opposition. When our rivals and our friends see this insistence, when they hear it in interviews in the global media and in conversations with leaders, we achieve the necessary maneuvering room to continue taking action.
And I say again, this is not self-evident. From the first day, together with my colleagues, I have been leading an intensive diplomatic effort to maintain the support of the US and many other countries. I am in continual contact with President Biden. Teams from my office talk with the White House on a daily basis. I appear in the American media almost daily to persuade the American public of the justice of our cause, and others are doing so as well. We are in constant touch the members of the House and Senate, and with those of them – and there are many – who come to Israel, I meet with personally.
These efforts are yielding important results. The bi-partisan American support for Israel has found expression not only in the massive demonstration of support for Israel in Washington, which the largest demonstration of support for Israel since the foundation of the state. I continue to speak on a daily basis with the leaders of countries, including today with the Chancellor of Germany. All of these are vital actions to ensure the continued supply of munitions from the US and to block international initiatives that would endanger the continuation of the fighting.
In this context, I would like to comment on the issue of the humanitarian assistance. First of all, and before everything else, Israel is acting according to the laws of war. This is how our army operates, the most moral army in the world. The humanitarian assistance is also essential to the continued assurance of international support. Without humanitarian assistance, even our best friends would find it difficult to support us over time, and it would be very difficult for us to continue the war until the end.
Therefore, when the IDF and the ISA recommended together that the Cabinet accede to the American request to allow the limited entry of two fuel trucks a day to the southern Gaza Strip, the War Cabinet unanimously agreed. This is a minimal emergency quantity of fuel to operate water and sewage pumps without which we could expect the immediate outbreak of disease. It must be understood: The outbreak of disease would harm both the residents of the Strip and the IDF soldiers in the Strip.
I want to emphasize: This is not a change of policy but a limited, localized response in order to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. These are some of the things that my colleagues and I are doing to ensure the continued diplomatic maneuvering room for the State of Israel, which we need to achieve the goals of the war.
However, I would like to make it clear: Even if the pressure increases, I will not stop from adhering to the three tasks that I have set and which all of must adhere to. The first task: To achieve absolute victory, to destroy Hamas. The people, the Government and the fighting forces show that we have the will, the capability and the unity to achieve this goal. The second task: To bring back the hostages. We will not relent in this sacred task. It guides us always. And the third task: To ensure that after victory, Gaza will never again threaten the citizens of Israel. I will not agree that any element enters there that supports terrorism, pays terrorists and their families, and educates their children to murder Jews and eliminate the State of Israel. Without such a revolution in the future civil administration in Gaza, it would only be a question of time until the terrorism returns and I am not willing to agree to this.
There is an additional condition that I set for the day after: The IDF will have complete freedom of action in the Gaza Strip against any threat. Only this way can we assure the demilitarization of Gaza.
Citizens of Israel, we are continuing to the end – until victory. We will defeat Hamas, we will bring back our hostages, we will restore security to the residents of both the south and the north. We will rebuild the cities, communities and kibbutzim. As the Prophet Ezekiel says (36:33): ‘I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be built.’
Together we will fight and together – with G-d’s help – we will win.”
May we share Besuros Tovos!