Israeli Prime Minister Faces Criticism Over Hostage Crisis Handling

Sun Dec 17 2023
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TEL AVIV: Criticism is mounting against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for perceived inaction in securing the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Details emerged about the shooting deaths of three Israeli captives during a confrontation in the Gaza Strip. Protests have erupted, with demonstrators accusing Netanyahu of a slow response to negotiate a new prisoner exchange deal.

The hostages were reportedly shot by the military, violating rules of engagement, as they attempted to surrender. The incident has raised questions about Israel’s military campaign, especially after U.S. President Joe Biden labeled its bombing of Gaza as “indiscriminate.”

In a Press conference planned for Saturday night in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu is expected to address the growing discontent. The hostages, Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz, and Samer Talalka, were abducted near the Gaza border on October 7. The deaths occurred despite a brief cease-fire following a two-month Israeli bombardment triggered by Hamas attacks in October.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan was in the region during the incident, adding complexity to discussions. The U.S. had earlier criticized Israel’s bombing as indiscriminate. Talks for a prisoner exchange had started in December, but the recent deaths have intensified calls for urgent action. Israel’s Mossad chief is anticipated to meet with Qatar’s prime minister, possibly in Norway, to explore new negotiations on a hostage deal.

Critics argue that Israel must actively pursue a deal, even if it means halting military operations or releasing Palestinian prisoners. The situation has drawn attention to the plight of other hostages still held in Gaza. Netanyahu expressed deep sorrow for the deaths and vowed to learn from the incident. Families of the hostages are urging immediate negotiations for their return.

While the U.S. expressed condolences for the deaths, officials caution against broader judgments on Israel’s campaign. Discussions with Israel are underway to potentially shift the focus from a military assault to targeting Hamas leaders. The situation remains tense, with calls for swift action to ensure the safe return of hostages.

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