Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says no Gaza ceasefire until hostages returned

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza until all of the more than 240 hostages captured by militant Palestinian group Hamas during its Oct. 7 attacks are returned.

“There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. This should be completely removed from the lexicon,” Netanyahu told crews at the Ramon air force base in southern Israel, reiterating the government’s long-standing position.

“We say this to our friends and to our enemies. We will simply continue until we defeat them. We have no alternative.”

Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates met U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman, Jordan on Saturday and urged him to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, demanded an immediate ceasefire earlier when he met Blinken during the U.S. secretary’s unannounced visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Blinken, in the region for a second time in less than a month as part of U.S. efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spreading, has rejected ceasefire calls. Blinken has said a ceasefire would only allow Hamas to regroup, but has been trying to convince Israel to agree to location-specific pauses that would allow much-needed aid to be distributed within Gaza. Gaza health officials said on Sunday more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed in the current war, which began when Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 hostage.

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