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Netanyahu to meet families of dead Gaza hostages as criticism mounts

19 June 2024, MVT 13:48
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. -- Photo: Ronen Zvulun / POOL / AFP
19 June 2024, MVT 13:48

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited relatives of hostages killed in Gaza to a meeting at his home, several families told AFP Tuesday, as criticism mounts over his response to the hostage crisis.

In the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7, 251 people were kidnapped from southern Israel. Of the 116 hostages still in Gaza, 41 have died according to the Israeli army.

Nineteen bodies have been recovered from the territory, and over 100 were released in November as part of a one-week truce deal.

"I was invited to meet the prime minister," Sharon Sharabi, whose brothers Yossi and Eli were kidnapped from Kibbutz Beeri on October 7, told AFP.

In February the army told Sharabi that his brother Yossi had been killed and his body was in the hands of Hamas. He said he would accept the invite.

But a family member of a hostage who died in captivity told AFP on condition of anonymity that she had declined the invitation.

"He remembered a little late to invite us," she said.

Netanyahu has come under mounting pressure for his handling of the war, with weekly protests demanding an agreement with Hamas for the release of the hostages.

Some of the dead captives' families have previously accused him of a lack of empathy towards them, whereas he rushed to meet hostages released by the army in an operation earlier this month, hailing their return and congratulating security forces.

He will receive some of the mourning families on Thursday and another group on Sunday, the families said.

The invites included both families of hostages killed whose bodies were returned to Israel and those whose bodies remain in Gaza, they added.

Israeli government spokesman David Mencer declined to comment Tuesday when asked about the invite at a daily press briefing.

After more than eight months of war, the United States is striving to secure an agreement based on President Joe Biden's ceasefire plan presented at the end of May.

The first phase of that plan would be a six-week ceasefire, accompanied by an Israeli withdrawal from densely populated areas of Gaza, and the release of hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

A senior Israeli negotiator told AFP Monday that tens of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza are certainly alive.

The war between Israel and Hamas broke out after Hamas's October 7 attack that resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory campaign in Gaza has killed at least 37,372 people, also mostly civilians, according to the territory's health ministry.

© Agence France-Presse

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