Netanyahu: Ground Invasion ‘Might Create a Deal’ to Release Hostages

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled that there “could be” a potential deal for hostage release with Hamas on the horizon, though he did not share any additional details.

“We’ll talk about it when it’s there. We’ll announce it if it’s achieved,” he told NBC’s Kristen Welker on Sunday’s Meet the Press. Two unnamed Israeli officials told Politico that the deal most likely would be for the release of a few dozen hostages, including children and the elderly as well as some American citizens.

Netanyahu attributed the possible deal to the Israeli army’s ground invasion. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that captured approximately 240 hostages and left more than 1,400 dead, Israel has unleashed a devastating number of airstrikes on the Gaza strip, killing more than 10,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,000 children.

“I can say that we weren’t close [to a deal] at all until we started the ground operation,” Netanyahu said. “In fact, we heard that there is an impending deal of this kind or that kind, and then we learned that it was all hokum. It was nothing. But the minute we started the ground operation, things began to change.”

“So is there a potential deal?” Welker asked.

“There could be, but I think the less I say about it, the more I’ve increased the chances that it materializes,” the prime minister responded. “And it’s a result of pressure, military pressure — the extraordinary work that the IDF is doing, putting pressure on the Hamas leadership.”

But there are still obstacles to the deal. According to Politico, Hamas has not yet shared a complete list of hostages held in Gaza, and Hamas is calling for a ceasefire or prolonged humanitarian pause for up to one week. In response to pressure from the White House, Netanyahu has agreed to four-hour daily humanitarian pauses in hostilities, which “might lead to some positive steps,” former Mossad intelligence officer David Meidan told Politico.

Welker also pressed Netanyahu about the deaths and suffering that Palestinian citizens are enduring as a result of the Israeli offensive. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children.” “Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day,” Guterres said Monday.

Gaza’s hospitals are also in dire straits. Without fuel, they cannot run incubators for infants needing intensive care or ventilators for patients dependent on them. Doctors in Gaza have said they have resorted to performing operations, including amputations, on patients without anesthesia. Even before the current war, few Gazans had access to clean water. Now, more than 45 percent of homes on the strip have been destroyed.

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said just this morning that while Hamas has committed war crimes, the collective punishment by Israel of Palestinian civilians amounts also to a war crime,” Welker said to Netanyahu. “Can you definitively say right now that Israel is not breaking international law?”

“Yes, I can say that what the commission has said is hogwash, because we’re — the main difference is — are you deliberately targeting civilians? No, we’re deliberately doing everything in our power to target the terrorists,” Netanyahu said. “And the civilians, as happens in every legitimate war, are sometimes what are called ‘collateral damage.’”

Netanyahu also accused Hamas of “keeping its military installations inside hospitals, its command posts inside hospitals, inside schools, in side UNRWA, UN facilities, and so on.”

Hamas has refuted the claim that they set up base in hospitals, but National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday, “There is plenty of open source information to indicate that Hamas uses lots of different civilian institutions—including hospitals—to store weapons, for command and control, to house its fighters.” Sullivan also said that the U.S. “does not want to see firefights in hospitals” in Gaza.

When Welker asked Netanyahu for a timeline estimating how long the assault on Gaza will continue, the prime minister responded, “I don’t think it’s going to take the time that it took the United States and the international coalition to defeat ISIS or to defeat al-Qaeda… But I’ve set targets and not a deadline.”

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