West Jerusalem refuses any ceasefire that does not include an immediate release of hostages, the prime minister says
Israel will not change its approach to the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference on Friday. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) will go on with its relentless bombing campaign against the Palestinian enclave, he said, adding that West Jerusalem will not agree to any pause in the hostilities unless the Israeli hostages are freed.
The IDF will continue striking Gaza with “all of its power,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the media. His nation “refuses a temporary cease-fire that doesn’t include the return of our hostages,” he added.
Around 240 people had been kidnapped by the Gaza-based Hamas militant group in a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. The militants have since claimed they were open to the idea of releasing the hostages but maintained it can only be done after hostilities cease, adding that they cannot even gather information on people in their captivity between the bombardments and the communications blackout imposed by Israel.
Netanyahu’s statements came after he met US State Secretary Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv. During the meeting, America’s top diplomat and the Israeli prime minister discussed the so-called “humanitarian pauses” needed to protect Gaza civilians and increase humanitarian aid deliveries.
“We believe all these efforts would be facilitated by humanitarian pauses with arrangements on the ground increasing security for civilians and allowing more effective and sustained distribution of humanitarian aid,” Blinken said at his own press conference in Tel Aviv.
He also reiterated Washington’s support for Israel by saying that the Jewish state would “never be alone.”
On Thursday, the Israeli security cabinet announced further restrictions against the Palestinian enclave. All workers from Gaza stranded on Israeli territory amid the IDF operation would be sent home, the Israeli authorities said. “Israel cuts all ties with Gaza, there will be no more Palestinian workers from Gaza,” the statement issued by the security cabinet said.
Israel’s massive bombings of Gaza have faced criticism from many Arab nations as well as Türkiye and even the UN, which spoke of “collective punishment” and potential war crimes committed by the Israeli military. Moscow was also critical of West Jerusalem’s actions while condemning the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel as well.
On Wednesday, the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, stated at the UN General Assembly emergency meeting that Israel’s right to self-defense does not warrant an invasion into Gaza, over which West Jerusalem has no jurisdiction. His words sparked an angry response from West Jerusalem, which accused Moscow of denying Israel its right to security and seeking to divert the world’s attention from its own military campaign in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog blasted all those who, he said, sought to “tie our hands” with demands for a ceasefire. “Anyone who thinks the cynical exploitation of civilian suffering will tie our hands and save Hamas this time is wrong. For us and for the Palestinians, the suffering will end only with the removal of Hamas,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times.