Hamas leader offers to free captives if IDF halts airstrikes

Khaled Meshaal told Sky News that a large release cannot take place under bombardment.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal offered a deal Tuesday to release some of the over 220 hostages the terror organization kidnapped during it October 7 invasion of Israel if the IDF stops its aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to Sky News, the former head of the Iranian-backed group that rules the Gaza Strip first denounced the airstrikes, in which he claimed “1,800 children” have been killed. When the interviewer pointed out that “None of that would have happened if you had not attacked the kibbutzs, and not gone into civilian areas and targeted civilians and taken civilian hostages,” Meshaal riposted, “They are not hostages.”

When quickly asked if Hamas would let them go, he answered, “I said we would release them…but now they are distributed in different locations.”

He then claimed that “Israel has killed more than 22 of them because of the destruction it has caused. So if Netanyahu is keen on their safety, if the Americans and Europeans are keen on their safety, let them force Israel to stop” what he termed Israel’s “war crimes” in bombing the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

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Israel targets only military sites, which, against international law, Hamas places within civilian areas.

The Hamas leader said that “the right conditions” for the hostages’ freedom were for Israel to “stop this aggression – and you will find the mediators like Qatar and some Arab countries like Egypt and others will find a way to have them released and we’ll send them to their homes.”

Hamas has released four women so far, Americans Judith Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie last week, and on Monday, two elderly Israelis, Yocheved Lifshitz (85) and Nurit Cooper (79), on what it called “humanitarian grounds.” Two Israeli officials told Axios Tuesday that initially Hamas had demanded that the IDF halt its airstrikes for six hours in exchange for the latter pair. Israel had refused because it didn’t want to set a pattern of two hostages’ return for every ceasefire.

Israel also knows that such a long timespan would allow Hamas to freely move the hostages elsewhere in order to thwart any rescue mission, as well as give its men time to set up new death traps in anticipation of the upcoming Israeli ground incursion.

The officials also said that Israel had sent Hamas a message through Egypt that if it wants any kind of deal, it would have to release all the women and children the terrorists had captured. There are up to 30 minors currently in Hamas’ hands, including infants.

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Meanwhile, Israel’s air force has dropped thousands of leaflets over the Gaza Strip promising money and protection to anyone who reveals where any of the hostages are located by calling a phone number it listed.

“If your will is to live in peace and to have a better future for your children, do the humanitarian deed immediately and share verified and valuable information about hostages being held in your area,” the missive stated. “The Israeli military assures you that it will invest maximum effort in providing security for you and your home, and you will receive a financial reward. We guarantee you complete confidentiality.”