Sherwin Pomerantz

Four Hostages Come Home

Four hostages were rescued in a joint operation, the IDF announced in a statement on Saturday:  “It has been cleared for publication that in a complex operation by the IDF, Shin Bet, and the Yamam unit of the Israel police four Israeli hostages were rescued this Saturday morning. The hostages, Noa Argamani (25,) Almog Meir (21,) Andrey Kozlov (27,) and Shlomi Ziv (40,) were kidnapped by Hamas to the Gaza Strip from the ‘Nova’ party on October 7th.”

“The hostages were rescued by Shin Bet and Yamam fighters from two different locations in an operation in the heart of Nuseirat. Their medical condition is stable, and they have been transferred for further medical examinations at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer. Security forces will continue to make every effort to bring back the hostages.”

Shortly after Israeli forces freed the on Saturday, Hamas published a statement from the terror organization’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, in which the arch-terrorist asserted that Hamas would not surrender.  “Our people will not surrender, and the resistance will continue to defend our rights in the face of this criminal enemy,” Haniyeh reportedly said. “And if the occupation believes that it can impose its choices on us by force, it is delusional, and the movement will not approve any agreement that does not achieve security for our people first and foremost.”  In a later statement Haniyeh added that as a result of the hostage release exercise on Saturday, Hamas would now make conditions for the remaining 120 hostages more difficult.

In the statement, the Hamas leader asserted that the Israeli military was engaging in massacres of the Palestinian people in Gaza.  “[Israel] continues the massacres against our people, children and women, the chapters of which are now taking place in Nuseirat and Deir al-Balah.”

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, the bodies of at least 93 Palestinians who were killed during Israeli activities in Nuseirat and other areas in the central region of the Gaza Strip arrived at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital on Saturday.  The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its reporting, and the numbers published by the ministry have come under scrutiny, particularly in recent days, for its apparent inflating of the proportion of women and children killed during the war.

The US push for a three-stage hostage deal appeared to remain at a standstill on Saturday, even as Israel celebrated the IDF operation that rescued four captives held in Gaza for 246 days.  “We won’t stop working until all the hostages come home and a ceasefire is reached, that is essential,” US President Joe Biden said during a joint press event in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron.  He spoke as eight days have passed since he unveiled the proposal that opens a pathway for the return of the remaining 120 hostages and an end to the war. Israel has accepted the deal, which the US has characterized as their proposal.

Hamas has made statements dismissing the deal, but their words have not been considered a final rejection.  Mohammad Al-Hindi, deputy chief of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group that is also holding some of the hostages, said that Israel’s military operation on Saturday would not affect the deal. He added that conditions for the deal remain the same, in comments he made to Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to travel to the region this week in an attempt to close the hostage release deal. His visit follows regional trips made last week by CIA Director William Burns and US special envoy Brett McGurk.  The trip will be Blinken’s eighth to the region since the Hamas-led invasion of Israel on October 7, in which over 1,200 people were killed and 251 seized as hostages.  Blinken is expected to visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Qatar and meet with their senior leaders. Egypt and Qatar have been the chief mediators for a hostage deal.

Of course, as could have been expected, the Arab press along with the UN are trying to turn the tables on Israel and make us the bad guys for doing whatever we can to release the illegally taking hostage of hundreds of Israelis on October 7th.  The world needs to remember that (a) taking those hostages was a crime; (b) holding them without proper food and drink was a crime; (c) not allowing much needed medication to reach the hostages was a crime; (d) sequestering them among civilians [and then complaining because civilians were killed or injured during the release] was also a crime, all according to international law.

Once again, the world needs to be reminded that Hamas could have ended this war long ago by putting down their arms and releasing the hostages.  Instead, it has chosen to prolong the fighting so that it can gain the sympathy of the world and make Israeli a pariah state.  Those countries that have refused to lean on Hamas to take the current offer on the table are themselves guilty of criminal activity by acting as enablers.  No nation wants this war to end and see the hostages returned [both those who are alive and those who are not], more than Israel.  It is now up to the rest of the world to bring Hamas to the table by cutting off the funds and materiel that make it possible for them to continue fighting.

Israel cannot do this alone.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.