Freeing hostages is Israel’s priority, says defense minister

Freeing hostages is Israel’s priority, says defense minister
Freeing hostages is Israel’s priority, says defense minister

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant pledged this Monday to do everything for the return of the hostages from Gaza and called for close cooperation with the United States, after the tensions of recent weeks.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, visiting Washington, pledged Monday to do everything for the return of hostages from Gaza and called for close cooperation with the United States, after the tensions of recent weeks . Yoav Gallant met with the head of the CIA, Bill Burns, the main American responsible for negotiations aimed at obtaining a cease-fire and freeing the hostages held by Hamas. He then spoke with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“I would like to emphasize that Israel’s primary commitment is to return the hostages, without exception, to their families and homes,” Gallant said before beginning his meetings. “We will continue to make every effort to bring them home,” he added. He made no further comments after leaving the meeting of more than two hours with Mr. Blinken, while several dozen pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered in front of the State Department chanted “war criminal.”

A context of regular demonstrations

Mr. Gallant’s visit to Washington comes after a week of tensions between Israel and Washington over the delivery of weapons, against a backdrop of humanitarian disaster in Gaza. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “intense” phase of fighting was “about to end” in Rafah, in the south of the besieged territory. Yoav Gallant’s comments also come against a backdrop of regular protests in Tel Aviv against the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding early elections.

In recent weeks, tens of thousands of Israelis have been protesting against the management of the war in Gaza and the Prime Minister’s inability to negotiate the release of hostages. “The alliance between Israel and the United States (…) is extremely important,” Mr. Gallant said, adding that ties with Washington “are the most important element for our future from the point of view of Security”. The Israeli defense minister is also scheduled to meet officials at the White House and speak with his American counterpart Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu, who is due to deliver a speech in July to the US Congress, told a cabinet meeting on Sunday that there had been a “dramatic drop in the supply” of US weapons about four months. “I don’t understand the meaning of this comment at all,” responded State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Monday, when questioned on this subject and recalling that Washington had put on hold a single arms shipment.

Washington intends to use these meetings with the Israeli minister to press Israel about longer-term arrangements after the end of the fighting in the Gaza Strip. “We do not want to see in Rafah what we saw in Gaza City and Khan Yunis, which is the end of major combat operations and the beginning of Hamas regaining control,” he said, referring to two other major cities targeted by Israel at the start of the war sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

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