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Israel now faces a dreadful dilemma

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet minister Benny Gantz
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet minister Benny Gantz

It might be imagined from the way the reported deaths of baby Kfir Bibas, his brother and their mother were talked about in some quarters today that the Israelis were to blame. Hamas claimed that the family had been killed in an air raid on Gaza and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) said that it was “assessing the accuracy of the information”.

We only have the word of the terror organisation for their fate. But the simple fact remains that, if they have been killed, it would not have happened had they not been kidnapped from their home by Hamas on October 7 and taken to Gaza.

Kfir was the youngest of the hostages taken on that day of infamy, along with his four-year-old sibling Ariel and their mother and father. They lived on a kibbutz close to the Gaza border. Earlier this week, Israel said the family had been handed to another terror group in southern Gaza.

But shortly before another exchange of hostages for prisoners was due to take place, Hamas announced their deaths, though not of the father.

To accuse the Israelis of killing them is a perverse inversion of reality. So, too, is any notion that Hamas should be given credit for returning dozens of the Israelis and other nationals who were abducted to be used as negotiating pawns. They have succeeded in halting IDF efforts to hunt down and destroy the Hamas network.

Hamas is evidently not going to hand over all the hostages or it would lose this bargaining power. Spare a thought, therefore, for the desperate families interviewed in this newspaper today, whose young men, aged just 21 and 22, have been abducted and who they fear may never come back. The families are in London to urge the world not to forget them as they watch the joyous reunions of women and children with their kin.

More than a hundred men have now spent 54 days trapped at gunpoint underground. Their release may depend on an extension of the truce, which will be hard to resist under international pressure to turn the pause into a ceasefire. Israel’s politicians have an agonising dilemma, whether to risk the lives of the remaining hostages by restarting the ground attack or agreeing to cease hostilities.

This is what Hamas wants and even planned for with the October 7 massacres, knowing Israel’s response would be ferocious. But there is no moral equivalence here. The blood of the innocents is on the hands of Hamas.

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