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Ceasefires Will Only Hinder Getting the Hostages Released

Ceasefires Will Only Hinder Getting the Hostages Released
By Con Coughlin

Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.

The White House has just announced that there will be daily “four-hour pauses”, with eight hours’ notice, in northern Gaza.

As Israel maintains its military offensive to destroy Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, the biggest threat to the operation achieving its stated objective of wiping Hamas from the face of the earth comes not the Islamist fanatics desperately defending their network of underground tunnels but from the Biden administration’s obsession, possibly after seeing so many staged demonstrations, with having “ceasefires.”

After Hamas terrorists launched their barbaric attack against Israeli civilians on October 7, murdering more than 1,200 and taking more than 240 hostage, US President Joe Biden was quick to demonstrate his support for Israel, dispatching two aircraft carrier battle groups and a nuclear submarine to the eastern Mediterranean, as well employing US naval assets in the Red Sea to shoot down drones and missiles launched at Israel from Yemen by Iran-backed Houthis — as a welcome gesture of solidarity.

While these moves, taken primarily to deter Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah from being tempted to escalate the crisis, provided reassurance to Israelis after their country had suffered an unprecedented attack, it also helped to conceal the Biden administration’s real attitude towards the conflict, which was deep concern about how Israel might respond to the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.

Now, nearly a month after the unprovoked attack, the Biden administration’s equivocation about giving Israel its full backing is alarmingly evident. Rather than giving its full support to Israel’s military campaign to destroy Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure, the White House appears more concerned with organising a cessation of hostilities, a move that would undoubtedly be to the advantage of the Hamas terrorists.

The Biden administration’s reluctance to give Israel’s military offensive its unambiguous support was clearly evident during US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s visit to the region, where the main focus of his shuttle diplomacy mission was not to reassure Israel of Washington’s support but to arrange “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting — and shorthand for a ceasefire.

During talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as with leaders of several Arab states, Blinken focused almost exclusively on lobbying for a halt to the fighting to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Until November 9, Blinken had been forced to concede that his calls for a pause in the fighting were little more than “a work in progress”.

In Israel, Blinken’s attempts to persuade Netanyahu to support a break in the fighting were rebuffed. The Israeli PM bluntly refused to even consider a temporary pause in the conflict. He argued that the more that 240 Israelis held hostage by Hamas should be released first. Letting up the military pressure on Hamas, rather than forcing Hamas to concede, will only delay the hostages’ release by enabling the terrorists to keep moving them around and re-hiding them.

Blinken’s visit to Turkey also proved to be unproductive. Rather than responding to calls to play a constructive role in resolving the crisis, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that he had no intention of dealing with Netanyahu in the future, as had been predicted. “We have erased him,” Erdogan was reported as telling Blinken.

If Blinken’s failure to win support for his agenda has highlighted the dramatic decline that has taken place in Washington’s influence in the Middle East since Biden took office, it has also demonstrated the White House’s inability to grasp the enormity of the challenge facing Israel in the wake of the Hamas attacks.

From Israel’s perspective, arranging any pause in the fighting would only benefit Hamas. The pauses — even four-hour ones — will provide a comfortable period of respite for Hamas, as well as opportunities to rearm and regroup, just at a time when the terrorist movement was suffering heavy casualties while Israeli forces intensified their assault on Gaza City, the terrorist organisation’s main stronghold.

Hamas also has a well-documented history of using schools, hospitals and even children’s playgrounds for their terrorist activities.

For years Hamas has used aid sent to Gaza for humanitarian purposes to support the construction of its terrorist infrastructure, raising fears that any deliveries of humanitarian aid to Gaza could be siphoned off to support Hamas fighters in their war against Israel.

Hamas has reportedly stolen 95% of the cement donated to “rebuild Gaza,” to build instead a 300-mile “spiderweb” of underground terror tunnels to smuggle goods and from which to attack Israel.

There have already been reported instances of Hamas attempting to smuggle wounded terrorists out of Gaza to Egypt in ambulances that were supposed to be used to evacuate wounded Palestinian civilians.

The other important consideration the Biden administration has failed to grasp is that, by ensuring Israel achieves its goal of destroying Hamas, Washington would be sending a strong signal to hostile states such as Iran, Russia and China that any attack against the US and its allies would receive a similarly robust response.

Iran’s support for Hamas, which helped it to develop the terrorist infrastructure deployed to such deadly effect in the October 7 attacks, makes it just as culpable as Hamas itself for the atrocities committed against innocent Israeli civilians.

Israel has already intimated that it intends to deal with Iran once the operation to destroy Hamas has been completed.

At the very least the Biden administration should be urgently reviewing its Iran policy and, instead of obsessing about the prospects of reviving the “nuclear deal” with Tehran, looking at options to limit the terrorist activities of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The US military has already launched a series of attacks against bases in Syria and Iraq used by Iranian-backed militias after they were used to attack US forces in the region. The Biden administration should be concentrating its efforts on targeting top IRGC commanders, as well as imposing tough banking sanctions against Tehran to limit its ability to fund terrorist groups such as Hamas.

If the Biden administration has any serious interest in deterring rogue states and Islamist terror groups then, rather than worrying about arranging a ceasefire, the Biden administration should demonstrate that it fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself, whether it is against the Islamist fanatics of Hamas or the malign ayatollahs in Tehran.

Con Coughlin is the Telegraph’s Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Original Article

Image Credit: © Rndmst

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