Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night held a press conference in Tel Aviv, reading out the names of the hostages who were released from Hamas captivity.
"I asked myself: How do you hold discussions with the devil, a person who has no value for human life? But I was convinced that there was a way to rescue people from the devil's fingernails," Netanyahu said. "We held tough negotiations, and we applied pressure on the brokers to improve the plan. The efforts bore fruit, and we doubled the number of people released."
"Anyone who saves a single soul - it is as if he saved an entire world," he continued. "In the past week, we saved many worlds. We brought back 110 souls. We released 86 Israeli civilians, children and women, teenage boys and girls, mothers and grandmothers, as well as dozens of foreign citizens. The entire nation and many around the world watched with bated breath as each person was released."
"These are not just names - these are souls, of boys and girls who we brought home, who we brought back to life. We will support them and take care of them. I embrace them all. Welcome, those who have left hell. Welcome home."
"My wife and I met some of the families of the hostages who remain in Hamas captivity. I promised them: We will do everything in order to bring them home. We will do everything in order to bring everyone home."
"At Soroka [Medical Center], I met Maya Regev, who was shot at the Nova party and kidnapped. She went through great mental and physical trials. She also met her brother, Itay, who we also managed to release. I stood beside her bed and embraced her. I saw, in front of my eyes, a family which had been reborn."
When asked why the agreement to return the hostages was discontinued, Netanyahu said, "Hamas violated the agreement, and I said that if it violates the agreement, we will return to war. That is what we did and the pressure will continue to grow. I prefer to let Hamas ask the questions - it will receive our answer on the ground. There is international pressure, I do not deny that. But what I am doing is creating an international space to deal with this pressure, and speaking with leaders every day. I am presenting the justice of our path."
Turning to the residents of northern Israel, he said, "I say to the residents of the north what I say to the residents of the south: We will bring back security, both in the north and the south. This is an action which has a certain order. .... We are committed to bringing security back to the citizens of Israel."
When asked to respond to the claims that he had received proposals to eliminate Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and rejected them, Netanyahu said, "I will not act irresponsibly and I will not reveal the entire picture that was presented to me and the variety of recommendations which I received from all branches of the security echelon. When the circumstances allowed it, we eliminated many leaders, both of Hamas and of other terror organizations, and we will complete the task now."