Virginia Democrat suggests new hostage deal is 'best chance' to deescalate war in Gaza

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Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) suggested Saturday that the “best chance” to deescalate the war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas is by negotiating a new deal to release the remaining hostages taken captive by the group at the war’s onset.

In Kaine’s view, the deal would also help to calm tensions between Houthi rebels in Yemen, the U.S. and their allies in the region. 

“I think there’s only one path to de-escalation right now,” Kaine said in an interview with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. “The US should pursue it with vigor and that’s the hot that’s a hostage deal to release hostages still held by Hamas.”

Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, said that retaliatory attacks against the Houthis for their deadly activity in the Red Sea are warranted, but they are not bringing the tensions of the situation down. 

“The President has said with respect to the attacks on the Houthis and the Red Sea, that they don’t expect the attacks to de-escalate, more missiles fired at Houthis is likely to lead to more missiles fired on ships in the Red Sea,” Kaine said. “And so the strategy of these attacks and then hoping to de-escalate, thus far isn’t working.” 

The Virginia senator reiterated his point that a new hostage deal should be brokered, accompanied by a humanitarian pause, allowing more aid to come into Gaza — a necessary step to ensure that Palestinian people receive resources in the wake of the bombardment that started after the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas on Isreal, which left over 1,200 Israelis dead and more than 240 people taken captive.

Kaine recounted the first hostage deal that freed more than 100 hostages kept by Hamas in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners amid a 6-day pause in fighting last year.

“You’ll remember that in the first hostage release, there was a pause that enabled humanitarian aid to go into Gaza and these groups in the region that we’re fomenting attacks on United States dramatically de-escalated their operations,” the senator argued.

Kaine, who has questioned some of Biden’s administration’s strategies in the Middle East, previously started collecting support for his amendment to stop Biden from sidestepping Congress when intending to transfer weapons to Israel. 

“I think hostages are the key to this first, there’s a humanitarian imperative that they should be released,” Kaine said. “So that’s that is the beginning point. But second, the only evidence that we have about what will produce a de-escalation was the first hostage release.”  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to keep fighting in the region until Israel has “total victory” over Hamas — including demilitarizing the Gaza Strip and securing the return of the remaining hostages.

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