Home News Israel’s euphoria over hostage rescue may be fading

Israel’s euphoria over hostage rescue may be fading

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For months, Israelis have heard only about hostages being killed or declared dead in Gaza. The “lucky” families are those whose loved ones’ bodies are brought back to Israel for burial by soldiers at great risk.

So Saturday’s daring rescue of four hostages alive immediately boosted morale in Israel and delivered at least a temporary victory for the country’s embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But by Sunday, the euphoria had been replaced by a harsher reality. Heavy air and ground strikes accompanying the rescue mission killed dozens of Palestinians, including civilians, according to Gaza health officials, undermining Israel’s claim that the operation was at least a huge success internationally. Analysts said the operation failed to address any of the deeper dilemmas and challenges plaguing the Israeli government.

Israel’s brutal war in the Gaza Strip has lasted for eight months, but it still seems far from achieving its stated goal of dismantling Hamas’ military and governing capacity. Israelis are worried that time is running out to rescue many of the hostages in Gaza. About a third of the remaining 120 hostages have been declared dead by Israeli authorities.

At the same time, Israel’s leadership is grappling with an escalation of hostilities along its northern border with Lebanon and dealing with growing international isolation and condemnation over the Gaza war, including Genocide allegations The case is being heard at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Nahum Barnea, a prominent Israeli political columnist, wrote in the popular newspaper Novaya Gazeta on Sunday that the rescue operation “does not solve a single problem Israel has faced since October 7.”

He added: “It doesn’t solve the problems in the north; it doesn’t solve the problems in Gaza; it doesn’t solve a host of other problems that threaten Israel on the international stage.”

The stability of Netanyahu’s government is at stake.

The Israeli government is under increasing pressure to reach an agreement with Hamas to release all remaining hostages. But the fate of Israel’s proposal for a ceasefire and hostage and prisoner exchange remains uncertain. President Biden Overview More than a week ago, negotiations between the two sides remained uncertain. The Biden administration and Israeli officials said they were still waiting for a formal response from Hamas to determine whether the negotiations could resume.

Israelis are currently debating whether the hostage rescue operation would help or hinder such a deal — which, if it goes ahead, could Threatening Netanyahu’s powerThe far-right in the ruling coalition has vowed to resign and overthrow its government.

The rescue of the four hostages is likely to bolster the arguments of those that Israel’s military pressure on Hamas and continued ground operations in Gaza are necessary to bring the remaining hostages home.

But for many Israelis and relatives of the dozens of remaining hostages, the fact that only four have returned suggests that such a complex military operation could save only a few of them and would carry huge risks for the military.

Israeli news media paid little attention Heavy casualties Gaza officials reported the results of the rescue operation. Neither the Israeli military nor Palestinian health officials provided details on the number of civilians and fighters killed in the attack.

The military’s chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, made clear the limits of what the military can do in a briefing with reporters on Saturday, saying of the remaining hostages: “We know we cannot act to get them all out because the situation does not always allow that.” The largest number of hostages released, more than a hundred, were freed in November under a previously agreed temporary ceasefire and hostage and prisoner swap.

The operation also highlights Israel’s dilemma: Without ground troops, the Israeli military will not be able to carry out any such rescue operations or continue to destroy Hamas’s capabilities. But any progress Hamas makes on a hostage deal depends on Israel’s commitment to a permanent ceasefire and a full withdrawal from Gaza.

For Hamas, which lost its four remaining bargaining chips on Saturday, Israel’s deadly actions could make its situation more difficult. The group suggested that a rescue operation could make the situation worse for the remaining captives.

“This operation will pose a great danger to enemy prisoners of war and will have a negative impact on their conditions and lives,” Abu Obeida, spokesman for the group’s military wing, said in a statement on Saturday.

Experts say some of the remaining hostages may now be moved from civilian apartment buildings to underground tunnels with harsher conditions, like the one where the four hostages rescued on Saturday lived, where they will be more difficult to reach.

Avi Kalo, an Israeli reserve lieutenant colonel and former head of military intelligence, said, “Hamas will learn from this operation and take more precautions to ensure that the hostages cannot be approached.”

“This is not a turning point for Hamas,” he said, adding that the group still holds many hostages. “Four fewer hostages does not significantly change the reality,” he added.

Some Israelis compared Saturday’s high-risk operation to the legendary Entebbe air strike Nearly 50 years ago, Israeli commandos rescued more than 100 hostages, mostly Israelis, held by pro-Palestinian plane hijackers in Uganda. Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, the commander of that raid, was killed in the operation.

Netanyahu himself sought to link the two events on Sunday, announcing that just as the Entebbe raid had been retroactively named “Operation Yonatan” in honor of his brother, the government had approved the military’s proposal to name Saturday’s raid “Operation Anon,” in honor of Anon Zamora, an Israeli police commando who was killed in a firefight during a mission in Gaza.

Many Israelis had already accused Netanyahu, whose approval ratings plummeted after Oct. 7, of trying to profit from the rescue operation by rushing to hospitals near Tel Aviv to greet the freed hostages, who were recuperating and reuniting with their families.

His office subsequently released a large number of photos and video clips from the hospital, and Netanyahu also made a public statement at the hospital, breaking the Jewish custom of not holding government activities on the Sabbath.

Relatives of hostages who have yet to return say they have not received any personal attention from the prime minister. Avi Marciano, whose daughter Noa, a soldier, was kidnapped and killed in Gaza on October 7, wrote on Facebook postal On Saturday, in the six months since the news of her death was announced, “the prime minister has not come. He has not called.”

One bellwether of the evolution of government policy, or lack thereof, is the impending decision by Benny Gantz, the former military chief and Netanyahu’s main political rival, whether to withdraw his centrist National Unity Party from the emergency wartime government.

Gantz joined the government shortly after October 7 out of a sense of national duty and became a key member of Netanyahu’s wartime cabinet. Three weeks ago, he issued an ultimatum, saying he would quit the government by June 8 unless Netanyahu laid out a clear strategic path forward, including decisions and plans on how to release the remaining hostages in Gaza and the post-war governance of the region.

Gantz had been scheduled to address the nation on Saturday evening, but postponed his much-anticipated speech by 24 hours because of the hostage rescue. His party’s withdrawal will not immediately lead to the collapse of the government; Netanyahu and his remaining partners will still hold a majority in parliament.

But it sent a clear signal that even after Saturday’s dramatic raid, not much has changed.

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