Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his stance on a Gaza cease-fire, emphasizing the importance of securing the release of hostages held by Hamas before any halt in hostilities. While Netanyahu characterized President Biden as a “good friend,” he expressed concern about the White House’s support for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza. He argued that this would be seen as a victory for Hamas and likened it to seeking a cease-fire after the al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center.
Netanyahu highlighted that the pressure on Hamas to release hostages only materialized once Israel initiated ground action. He is wary of granting Hamas the opportunity to endanger Israeli soldiers and is committed to applying military pressure to combat the terrorist organization. The Israeli Prime Minister clarified that there might be tactical pauses to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and the departure of individual hostages but ruled out a general cease-fire.
Regarding the reported death toll in Gaza, which stands at approximately 10,000, Netanyahu cautioned against taking these figures at face value. He argued that a significant number of those casualties likely include Hamas combatants. He acknowledged the tragedy of civilian casualties but stressed that Hamas uses civilians as human shields, complicating military operations.
Netanyahu emphasized the difficulty of defeating terrorists embedded in civilian populations and reiterated his commitment to minimizing civilian casualties. He stated that defeating such a brutal enemy requires targeting terrorists effectively while reducing harm to innocent civilians.
In contrast to President Biden’s advocacy for a humanitarian pause in Gaza, Netanyahu remains focused on the release of hostages as a precondition for a cease-fire. The State Department has acknowledged the need for a humanitarian pause to enable aid flow, voluntary civilian movement, and the potential release of hostages. Still, it has also highlighted the challenges posed by Hamas’s use of civilian shields and the risk of future terror attacks if a cease-fire is granted prematurely.