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The terror of Hamas seizing young and elderly hostages as pause in Gaza war is extended

We are overjoyed that some of the hostages are free, including a 4-year-old American girl.

But think about how barbaric it is for Hamas to kidnap a 4-year-old girl.

For all the media focus on every twist and turn of the hostage negotiations, let’s not lose sight of the inhumanity of a terrorist organization that seizes civilian families as bargaining chips.

When the first round of Israeli hostages was released, I was appalled to see they included a 2-year-old and an 85-year-old. What kind of savagery was this?

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And yet Hamas wants the world to believe this was a grand humanitarian gesture blessed by God. Instead, it was the exercise of leverage that won the terrorists a four-day pause in the war, an influx of food and fuel, and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners, some of them killers. 

So the natural feeling of joy for the freed hostages and their anguished families has to be tempered with disgust for the appalling acts of terrorism in holding the elderly as well as young children for a month and a half – with nearly 200 still in captivity.

The story of Avigail Eden, the first American hostage released (I was on the air at the time Sunday morning), is particularly heartbreaking. The 4-year-old’s parents were murdered by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attack and two siblings hid in cabinets. It’s tough to imagine the young girl’s indelible trauma, but you don’t have to imagine the utter disregard for human life displayed by Gaza’s dictators.

There was a glimmer of good news yesterday as Qatar, which has been serving as the middleman, announced that the pause in fighting is being extended for two more days, with more civilian hostages being released in exchange for three times as many Palestinian prisoners. 

Qatar somehow gets a pass for harboring Hamas leaders, but its role in the hostage talks has been indispensable.

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Of course, this is bad news for those who oppose turning a four-day pause into one that lasts six days, because that will give Hamas fighters more time to regroup and reposition for future assaults on the Israelis.

Earlier yesterday, there were reports that Gaza might not be able to exchange any more hostages because Hamas didn’t know where they were. Some were being held by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups. I guess Hamas managed to locate at least 20 with Israel having agreed to an extra day’s pause in exchange for each day’s release of 10 more.

cache of wepons

The extension drew praise from the Biden administration, with the president, who spoke to Avigail’s family after her release, saying: “I have remained deeply engaged over the last few days to ensure that this deal — brokered and sustained through extensive U.S. mediation and diplomacy — can continue to deliver results.”  

Biden said he wants all the hostages to be freed. That seems unrealistic, but if it happened it would mean a prolonged cease-fire.

The president’s deft diplomacy has played a crucial role here, from pushing Bibi Netanyahu into the original agreement to securing the release of Avigail Eden. On Saturday, when Hamas delayed a hostage release for hours and it looked like the fragile deal might collapse, Biden spoke to the emir of Qatar and things got back on track.

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Biden is doing all this at some political cost, with many younger Democrats opposing Israel and supporting Hamas and the Palestinians, which is showing up in the polls. Both Israel and Ukraine have effectively turned him into a war president.

While Biden’s age is understandably his biggest political liability, the flip side is that his decades of foreign policy experience have served him well in both crises.

President Biden with Israeli flag in background

While the spotlight remains on the Middle East, where the Gaza civilian death toll has also been high, what happened in Vermont the other day is equally troubling.

A 48-year-old suspect has just been arrested in the shooting of three Palestinian students, two of whom were wearing Palestinian headdresses, kaffiyehs, and all of whom were speaking a mixture of English and Arabic.  

Burlington’s mayor said the awful attack is being investigated as a hate crime. No one should rush to judgment, but all the elements are there. 

The global surge in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred are a sickening outgrowth of the war and must be equally denounced.

The hostages remain the biggest story right now, temporarily freezing the war, but the larger question is why they were brutally kidnapped in the first place.

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