A participant in the distressing meeting on Tuesday night between the families of the hostages and the ministers of the war cabinet, described the experience in a striking way. He claimed that the ministers were witnessing a chilling hypothetical scenario about the potential collapse of the State of Israel. To quote the words of a friend of one of the families, it was "appalling, simply terrible and horrendous." The families of the hostages arrived at the meeting, carrying with them immense grief and anxiety, with one clear demand: Act immediately, at any cost.
The accounts provided by those who were taken hostage were shocking. They spoke of an adult Israeli hostage who had been forced to shave all of his body hair, of severe beatings and various forms of degradation inflicted upon the hostages in general. One hostage was described as being in such a dire situation that he resorted to self-harm. There was genuine fear for safety due to the IDF's bombings, which had damaged their locations. The hostages were subject to horrifying psychological torment, having been made to believe they had been forsaken by their country.
One woman expressed the horrifying reality: "We're human while they are monsters. They take pride in their extreme actions. They sleep undisturbed, even when bombs from planes explode nearby. Your bombings don't affect them," she said. However, these were not the only testimonies shared. There was a palpable sense of frustration among some families who felt that the cabinet was not fully acknowledging the hostages' plight. This was not just about their interactions with the cabinet, but also about the disagreements amongst themselves, which escalated to the brink of physical altercations.
The discussion also revolved around the urgent demand for a significant negotiation deal, as well as the prioritization of the return of certain categories of hostages. Meanwhile, the atmosphere was fraught with rumors - sparked by an unintentional statement from a State Department spokesperson - about the potential sexual abuse of female captives.
In response to these issues, it seems Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggled to rise to the occasion. Empathy is not his forte, a trait Israel became all too aware of since October 7th. However, according to my sources, he did highlight two critical points. Firstly, there was never a proposal from Hamas for an "all-for-all" exchange. The concept was initially introduced by Qatar, but Hamas has never endorsed it. The dominant belief within the security establishment is that Hamas will never agree to such a proposition. In the end, the hostages are the ultimate human shields for Hamas' leadership in their bunkers.
The second point is the necessity of the ongoing ground operations to expedite a deal to rescue more hostages. A high-ranking official involved in managing the conflict confided in me last night, saying: "Rest assured, if there's another offer or any scope for negotiation to rescue more Israelis from the hellish grasp of Hamas, we will seize it. We will assess, we will negotiate, and if required, we will halt operations for a few days - but we will get them out." I find his words credible.
The situation at hand is complex: Israel, despite its diplomatic and public efforts, seems to be struggling to effectively secure the release of the hostages. The hostages, our brothers and sisters in Gaza, are enduring a horrifying ordeal at the hands of Hamas, including physical attacks, starvation, humiliation, and denial of medical treatment. Despite having concrete evidence from those who have returned, the message about their torture isn't resonating as it should.
This message is crucial. It's not just about rallying international support or putting pressure on Hamas to disprove these allegations. It's about making it clear that the quickest path to ending the war is through the release of all hostages. If peace is the goal, then the journey must begin with bringing our people home.
There's a public image opportunity that cannot be relinquished, whereby Israel makes an offer fow the world to examine, while the Iranian proxy's voice remains unheard from the depths of their bunkers. It serves as an opportunity not just to reassure the Israeli public of the clear intent to bring hostages back, but also make it clear to the world that when it comes to the safety of its citizens, captive or otherwise, Israel is not fooling around.
Actions speak louder than words, and the Israeli public wants the kind of results that transcend empty statements to the media. While making sure Hamas no longer remains a viable entity within the enclave remains a course of action that can be actualized at any time, the urgency of bringing hostages back to their loved ones cannot be overly emphasized.
Far from undermining, these circumstances may indeed amplify the urgency for propelling the ground operation in the northern reaches of the Strip, with a sharp focus on Khan Younis. The forthcoming weeks will serve as a crucible for the war, and with cautious optimism, we can assert that as twilight fell yesterday, the southern advance was proceeding as planned.
But the surprises don't end there: the defense establishment has been pleasantly caught off guard by the systematic evacuation of entire Palestinian neighborhoods. The IDF is hinging its hopes on a series of inventive strategies - not limited to seawater, as per foreign dispatches - with the aim to lure the terrorists from their underground hideouts, and hopefully, the hostages ensnared within.
The message from the leaders of the Western world to Israel rings crystal clear: dismantle the reign of Hamas, but do so with swift precision, before the end of the Christmas hiatus, and ensure Palestinian civilian casualties are kept to a bare minimum. The National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, is slated to touch down on Israeli soil once more in the coming days, and this time around, the White House seeks a clearer understanding of Israel's blueprint for Gaza's future. Israel must narrate a comprehensive saga: not merely the harrowing events of October 7, but also the current plight of the hostages, the military path ahead - and a vision of what the future might hold.