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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that all proposals to reach a new hostage deal have been rejected by Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to increase pressure on Hamas and threatened to “land additional and painful blows” in an effort to release remaining Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Some 129 Israelis are believed to be still in captivity, following Palestinian militants’  incursion into the Jewish state on October 7, which saw over 1,100 people, mostly civilians, killed and over 200 taken hostage. The short-lived truce in November last year saw 105 hostages released in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners, but further negotiations stalled over Hamas demands for a permanent ceasefire and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces, which Netanyahu dismissed as “delusional.”

In a pre-Passover video message on Sunday, Netanyahu said that the absence of the hostages over the holiday would “only strengthen our determination to bring them back,” explaining that all Israeli proposals to secure the release of the hostages were “rejected outright by Hamas.”

“Instead of retreating from its extreme positions, Hamas builds on division within us. It draws encouragement from the pressures directed at the Israeli government. As a result, it only tightens its conditions for the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu continued in an apparent reference to anti-government protests calling for new elections and demanding that the authorities do more in order to reach a new hostage deal.

“In the coming days, we will increase the military and diplomatic pressure on Hamas because this is the only way to free our hostages and achieve our victory,” he added.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed since the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launched their bombing campaign followed by a ground invasion, according to the latest figures provided by the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry.

Netanyahu maintains that Israel cannot achieve its goal of “total victory” without launching an offensive on the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where around 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge since the beginning of the war.

The potential invasion of the densely populated city has raised an alarm in the international community, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning this week of “terrible consequences” if West Jerusalem goes ahead with the plan.

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