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Hostages relative: Israel won’t prioritize release over defeating Hamas

A relative of a hostage captured by Hamas said late Monday that Israel’s top officials told him and other families of the captives they won’t prioritize their release over defeating Hamas.

Udi Goren, whose cousin Tal Chaimi is in captivity in Gaza, was one of several family members of hostages who met with the war cabinet, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“What we’ve heard is that taking down Hamas and bringing the hostages (home) are … equally important,” Goren told reporters after coming out of the meeting in Tel Aviv.

“This is incredibly disappointing because … we know that taking down Hamas, we keep hearing from them (it) is going to take months or years and it’s going to take a long time,” Goren said.

Goren also said the war cabinet — a body set up immediately after the Hamas terrorist attack and made up of Netanyahu, Yoav Gallant, the Minister of Defense and former military chief turned politician, Benny Gantz — did not share any details about any possible deal to release the hostages.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday said he did not have an update on negotiations to release hostages. But Kirby said that pauses in fighting would be needed for the release of hostages.

Meanwhile, the families of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza have tearfully pleaded with Israeli lawmakers not to advance legislation that would permit the death penalty for convicted Palestinian terrorists, including those involved in Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on Israel.

The families, who represent some of the 240 people abducted by Hamas and other terrorists that day, told National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir that the legislation risked angering Hamas and putting the lives of their relatives at risk.

“Not now, when the lives of our loved ones are on the line, when the sword is on their necks,” Gil Dikman, whose cousin is believed to be held hostage in Gaza, said Monday during an emotional hearing at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

After the National Security Committee hearing, Ben-Gvir wrote on X, formerly called Twitter, that the legislation is an important tool for increasing pressure on Hamas.

”In the Middle East, you don’t blink, you hit your enemy with every tool and bring them to their knees,” he said.

Ophir Katz, the head of the government coalition and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, told reporters that the amendment to the penal code would not come up for a vote until it was vetted by senior Cabinet members and Netanyahu.

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