Minister Benny Gantz
Minister Benny Gantzspokesperson

National Unity Party chairman Minister Benny Gantz delivered a statement this evening (Wednesday) in the Kirya in Tel Aviv and addressed the families of the hostages who are being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

"I would like to appeal to the families of the hostages, who show great fortitude, and to assure them - there is no stone which is being left unturned in order to fulfill this mission that belongs to the entirety of Israeli society. A mission for which the leadership is responsible. Your actions for your loved ones are inspiring - each family is on its way. There are attempts these days to promote a new outline, and initial signs that indicate the possibility of moving forward. We will not stop looking for the way, and we will not miss any opportunity to bring our sons and daughters home," Gantz declared.

However, he emphasized that "on the battlefield, we are facing an operation in Rafah, which will begin after the evacuation of the [civilian] population from the area. The importance of clearing Rafah is in the ability to harm the Hamas forces operating there and in the need to demilitarize the Gaza Strip. I repeat, if there is no agreement to release the hostages, we will act, even during Ramadan."

"Since the hostage deal [of late November], we have not stopped fighting for even one day - and we will not stop even for a minute, without the return of our hostages. No matter what, we will continue to fight with the necessary intensity until we remove the threat of Hamas," Gantz stressed.

On the situation on the border with Lebanon, Gantz said that "in the north, we retaliate in every area of Lebanon - near and far. There will be only one result - the removal of Hezbollah from the border and the safe return of our residents. I am aware of the delay in the outline of the aid to the residents of the north that we promised - and we will work to ensure that this government's decision is promoted, as promised In a discussion I initiated about a month ago."

Gantz emphasized that he is firmly opposed to steps that would lead to unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. "Today we passed a resolution in the Knesset with a large majority, opposing the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. After 7/10, it would be a mistake to give such support to terrorism."

"Political arrangements need to take place through direct negotiation, otherwise they will not be sustainable. And in any future situation, Israel will maintain its technological edge and security operation capability in the entire Gaza Strip. Our mission is - 100% security control and 0% civilian control [by Israel]. Many parties can operate in the field - just not Hamas. We will not allow the murderers to return to control the places where the IDF operated. We are examining a number of options so that the aid to Gaza will be transferred through an international administration of moderate Arab countries with the support of the US. We are currently promoting pilot programs for the transfer of aid through parties, organizations, and countries, in a way that will ensure that Hamas does not take it over. Our goal and the goal of the donor countries is the same - aid to the residents and not to terrorists," Gantz said.

He also said that "besides the military victory, we must also strive for a political victory, which means: normalization and peace agreements with Saudi Arabia and other countries in a way that will also help remove the rule of Hamas."