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    Protests over hostage statement by right-wing extremist minister


    Israel's right-wing extremist finance minister has drawn the anger of many Israelis with a statement he made in an interview. Prime Minister Netanyahu supports him.

    In Israel on Tuesday evening, numerous people took to the streets against Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. The Times of Israel reports that he caused the anger of many people with a statement in an interview with the Israeli broadcaster Kan. Accordingly, when asked whether he thought the repatriation of the 134 hostages held in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 Hamas attack was the most important goal, he replied: “No. It is not the most important.”

    “Why is this so important at the moment?” he continued. “We have to destroy Hamas. That is very important,” said Smotrich. He also criticized the fact that some, including relatives of the hostages, are calling for a deal with the terrorist organization in order to secure the release of the captured civilians.

    Smotrich's comments were followed by angry protests on Tuesday. Relatives of the hostages, who held a vigil in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, blocked several major roads out of outrage, according to the Times of Israel. Some demonstrators were said to have tried to block the road to the Israeli army headquarters, where the war cabinet was due to meet. Anyone who thinks that the hostages are not important should have their own children taken hostage. “Then you can talk,” the paper quoted a man whose daughter is in the control of the terrorist organization Hamas as saying.

    “Return of the hostages is our moral imperative”

    Smotrich's statements also sparked criticism among politicians: Opposition leader Yair Lapid wrote on the online news service War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz also made it clear: “The return of the hostages is not only our war goal, it is our moral imperative as a country and as a people.” He further wrote on X: “It is the most urgent thing. We will not miss an opportunity to bring her home.”

    Smotrich himself defended his statement that evening: “I was asked in an interview whether the return of the kidnapped people wasn't the most important thing before destroying Hamas and winning the war,” he explained on X. “My answer is clear: only if “If we destroy Hamas and win the war, we will bring back all the abductees,” Smortich said. Those who called for a “deal at any price” would “bring about Israel's defeat in the war,” he repeated his criticism. This would eliminate any possibility of getting the hostages back.

    Netanyahu joins Smotrich

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood by Smotrich after his interview. “We are not prepared to pay any price (for the hostages), and certainly not the delusional price that Hamas wants to demand from us,” Netanyahu said during a visit to troops near the Gaza border. The armed struggle against Hamas will continue until all hostages are released and Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel. “No amount of pressure can change that,” emphasized Netanyahu. He had already taken this position in the weeks before.

    The war was triggered by the worst massacre in Israel's history, carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist Palestinian organizations on October 7th in Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip. They murdered more than 1,200 people and abducted 250 others to the coastal strip. Around 105 hostages were released as part of a prisoner exchange with Hamas in November. The remaining civilians are said to be still in captivity of the terrorist organization. However, Israel believes that more than 30 of them are no longer alive.

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