February 22, 2024

The Mossad has been directed to act against Hamas leaders wherever they are, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He defended a partial hostage deal that includes a four to nine-day pause in the Gaza war on Wednesday night. “It was a hard decision, but the right decision,” Netanyahu said. The government approved an agreement by which up to 98 hostages would be freed in exchange for the first-ever pause in the war and the release of jailed Palestinian women and minors. Netanyahu assured reporters that Israel’s security services had Hamas in its scope. “I instructed the Mossad to act against Hamas leaders where they are,” Netanyahu said. On Tuesday, Hamas told Lebanese media that the deputy commander of the Lebanese branch of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades, Khalil al-Kharaz, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon. Netanyahu ducked a direct question about whether Israel would attempt to assassinate Hamas leaders during the pause or freeze its efforts until the pause was over. He assured the Israeli public that the pause would be temporary and that Israel’s military campaign to oust Hamas from Gaza would resume when it was over. Netanyahu also promised that all the hostages would be released, including the two Israeli captives Hamas has held since 2014 and 2015 — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed. He also referenced the two soldiers believed killed in the 2014 Gaza war Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. Netanyahu thanked US President Joe Biden for his efforts to secure and expand the deal, which was mediated by Qatar with Egypt’s help, even as he took credit for Biden’s increased involvement.