Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the Israeli government’s decision to provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip amid criticism from Israelis who demand Hamas reciprocate by releasing all of the Israeli and international hostages held in Gaza.
The prime minister stressed Israel's inflow of humanitarian aid to Gaza was crucial for maintaining support from the United States and other international allies.
“We need to give humanitarian aid to keep getting support from the U.S. Without it, even our allies will find it hard to back us, Netanyahu told the media.
While the Biden administration backs Israel’s military operation against the terror organization Hamas, Washington has also repeatedly stressed the need to provide humanitarian aid for the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli leader admitted that Jerusalem had been under a lot of international political pressure during the ongoing IDF military operation in Gaza.
"We're facing a lot of heat both from inside the US and internationally these past few weeks," Netanyahu said.
However, Netanyahu also said the Jewish state has, nevertheless, remained firm in its operational decisions to reject international calls for a ceasefire, noting that it would benefit the Hamas terror organization and neutralize Hamas’ presence in sensitive sites, such as Al-Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip.
"They pushed us hard to agree to a complete ceasefire; we said no, and I made it crystal clear that we'd only agree to a temporary pause in fighting, and that, too, only if our hostages were returned," the Israeli president stated.
In addition to the international pressure, Netanyahu also emphasized that it was in the Jewish state’s own interest to provide humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.
"We're the ones who told over a million people to head south, which is why we made the decision we did. It's important to prevent the spread of diseases in Gaza, which can also reach Israel,” the premier added.
Netanyahu has continued to state that the release of the approximately 240 Israeli and international hostages is a top priority for Israel.
Many Israelis are pressuring the Netanyahu government to do more to secure the release of the hostages, including a march this past week that culminated in a demonstration in Jerusalem on Saturday night.
Netanyahu refrained from discussing any specifics on the hostage crisis.
“I cannot discuss the exact detail of any hostage return deal. We're dealing with a ruthless and cynical enemy, and I can safely say the war cabinet is working very well."
Hamas has so far only released four hostages and Israel succeeded in rescuing one female IDF soldier hostage during a military operation inside Gaza. While there have been numerous rumors of hostage release deals in recent weeks, no additional hostages have been released so far.
The Washington Post, however, recently reported some progress in a new U.S.-negotiated agreement between Israel and Hamas that would mean the release of dozens of children and women hostages held by Hamas in return for a five-day ceasefire.
However, it remains to be seen whether this report is factual.
During a recent press meeting, Netanyahu promised that his government would make an announcement once there is a real deal.
“Concerning the hostages, there are many unsubstantiated rumors, many incorrect reports. I would like to make it clear: As of now, there has been no deal. But I want to promise: When there is something to say – we will report to you about it,” the premier stated.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently said that Jerusalem would only agree to a temporary ceasefire in exchange for a mass release of hostages and not only a smaller number.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.