Netanyahu says Israel won’t ‘pay any price’ to free hostages

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country will not pay any price for the return of hostages being held by militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country will not pay any price for the return of hostages being held by militants. Photo: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich say Israel will not pay any price for the return of hostages still held in Gaza amid ongoing negotiations to secure their release.

Asked about the 134 hostages who remain in Gaza, Smotrich told Kan Radio that their return was “very important” but that they could not be released “at any cost”.

He said the way to free them was by ramping up the military pressure on the Gaza Strip and defeating Hamas, the armed group that governs the blockaded enclave.

His remarks drew rebukes from opposition leader Yair Lapid and minister Benny Gantz and angered some families of hostages who have been trying to increase the pressure on the government to strike a deal.

But shortly after the radio interview Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office published a statement echoing Smotrich’s position.

“There is a lot of pressure on Israel from home and abroad to stop the war before we achieve all of our goals, including a deal to release the hostages at any cost,” Netanyahu said.

“We are not willing to pay any price, certainly not the delusional cost that Hamas demands of us, which would mean defeat for the state of Israel.”

The remarks came as the United States plans to send its Middle East envoy to the region for continued talks between the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar that seek to broker a ceasefire and the release of hostages.

Israel said 1200 people were killed and 253 more were abducted into Gaza during the October 7 Hamas-led attack on its towns.

Since then, Israel’s air, ground and sea offensive has killed nearly 29,000 Palestinians with thousands more trapped under the rubble, according to Palestinian authorities, and laid much of the blockaded enclave to waste.

The most significant release of hostages has so far happened during the only, week-long negotiated pause in the war in November when Hamas freed 110 Israelis and foreigners it had captured.

The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday it had completed a second evacuation mission from the Nasser Hospital but voiced concern for nearly 150 patients and medics who remain at the site amid continuing fighting.

The Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest, stopped working last week after a week-long Israeli siege followed by a raid, the United Nations agency said.

WHO staff and other aid groups have so far relocated a total of 32 critical patients including injured children and those with paralysis but the agency is concerned for those left behind with supplies dwindling.

“WHO fears for the safety and well-being of the patients and health workers remaining in the hospital and warns that further disruption to lifesaving care for the sick and injured would lead to more deaths,” the WHO said on the social media site X, saying those remaining included 130 patients and 15 medics.

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.