Israel's Herzog meets UAE counterpart to push for captive release

AFP , Thursday 30 Nov 2023

Israeli President Isaac Herzog met his Emirati counterpart on the sidelines of UN climate talks on Thursday as part of a diplomatic push to release captives held by Hamas.

File photo: President Isaac Herzog (left) meets with UAE President Mohammed Bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi on December 5, 2022.


Herzog's visit to the United Arab Emirates comes nearly eight weeks into the Israeli war on Gaza and coincides with a day-long extension to a truce that has seen Israeli captives freed in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

During his meeting with UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Herzog underlined "the necessity to act in any way possible to free the Israeli hostages held captive by the murderous terrorist organisation Hamas," a statement from his office said.

He "appealed" to his Emirati counterpart "to employ his full political weight to promote and speed up the return home of the hostages," the statement said.

In a separate statement on X, formerly Twitter, Herzog said he would hold "a series of diplomatic meetings" in Dubai to push for the release of captives.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas is also attending the COP28 climate conference.

More than 140 heads of state and government are due to address COP28 on Friday and Saturday, including Herzog and Abbas, who are both scheduled to make speeches lasting three minutes on Friday.

"In my meetings with world leaders, I intend to raise the firm demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza," Herzog said.

"In addition, I will detail and emphasise efforts to provide more and more humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza," he added.

Since the truce began on November 24, 70 Israeli captives have been freed in return for 210 Palestinian prisoners.

Around 30 foreigners, most of them Thais living in Israel, have been freed outside the terms of the deal.

Israel has made clear it sees the truce as a temporary halt intended to free hostages, but there are growing calls for a more sustained pause in the war.

Fighting began on October 7 when Hamas and other militants from the Gaza Strip poured over the border into the territories occupied by Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 captives, according to Israeli authorities.

In response, Israel unleashed an air and ground brutal military operation on Gaza that killed nearly 15,000 people and injured about 30 thousands.

The war has cast a shadow over the UN climate talks in Dubai, with activists demanding a permanent ceasefire and an end to Israel's 17-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

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