Inside Israeli defense headquarters, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu monitored the first release of Hamas-held hostages while outside, their families in a Tel Aviv square gathered around Benny Gantz, his leading challenger for the top job.

On camera Gantz, a former army chief and opposition leader who joined Netanyahu's war Cabinet last month, pointedly asked a TV crew to leave him alone with the families. Photos published later showed him hugging individuals in the crowd.

Facing a huge wave of criticism over his failure to prevent the shock Hamas infiltration of Israel on Oct. 7, Netanyahu has largely avoided the limelight while conducting a two-front war, one against Hamas and the other for his own political survival.