Israel will not change its approach to Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference on Friday. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will continue its bombing campaign on the Palestinian enclave, he said, adding that West Jerusalem will not agree to a pause in the hostilities unless the Israeli hostages are freed.
The IDF will continue to strike Gaza with “all of its power,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the media. Israel “refuses a temporary ceasefire that doesn’t include the return of our hostages,” he added.
Read more: Israel in Gaza: No good options
Around 240 people were kidnapped by the Gaza-based Hamas militant group in a surprise attack on Israel on October 7. The militants have since said they are open to the idea of releasing the hostages, but maintained that this can only be done after a cessation of hostilities, as they cannot even gather information on the people they are holding captive due to the bombing and the communications blackout imposed by Israel.
Netanyahu’s statements came after he met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv, where the two discussed “humanitarian pauses” to protect Gaza civilians and increasing 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 reiterated Washington’s support for Israel, saying the country will “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 will 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 bombardment of Gaza has faced criticism from many Arab nations, as well as Türkiye and the UN. Moscow was also critical of West Jerusalem’s actions. while condemning the October 7 Hamas attack.
On Wednesday, the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said at a UN General Assembly emergency meeting that Israel’s right to self-defense does not warrant an invasion of 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, while seeking to divert the world’s attention from its own military operation in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog blasted those who, he claimed, seek 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.