“Now! Now!” the families chanted from the gallery on Monday when Netanyahu promised to bring the captives home but added that he has been told by Israeli field commanders that “more time” was needed.
“We wouldn’t have succeeded up until now to release more than 100 hostages without military pressure,” Netanyahu stated, adding, “And we won’t succeed at releasing all the hostages without military pressure.”
A deal brokered in late November by the United States, Qatar and Egypt saw the release of more than 100 of the estimated 240 captives taken to Gaza during attacks by Hamas on October 7 on southern Israel.
Israel says 129 captives are still held in Gaza. Three of them were mistakenly killed by Israeli forces this month.
“We won’t stop until victory,” Netanyahu said over the cries of the protesters in parliament.
The family members of the captives sat in the chamber looking down on the prime minister, holding posters of their relatives behind the Plexiglass of the gallery and intermittently interrupting him.
Netanyahu’s address came after his Likud party reported that he visited the Gaza Strip on Monday and promised to ramp up Israel’s assault there.
Shortly after his return, Netanyahu said the war was far from over. He said it was false media speculation that his government might end the fighting.
“We’re not stopping. We’re continuing to fight, and we’re intensifying the fighting in the coming days. It’s going to be a long war that’s not close to ending,” the Israeli leader added.
Israel’s Ministry of Finance stated the war, which it foresees lasting through February, will likely incur an additional cost of at least $14bn in the 2024 budget.
Meanwhile, about three months of Israeli bombardment has killed more than 20,674 Palestinians and wounded 54,536 – most of them women and children.
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Netanyahu said “Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarized, and Palestinian society must be deradicalized. These are the three prerequisites for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours in Gaza.”
He writes that to destroy Hamas, “its military capabilities must be dismantled and its political rule over Gaza must end.”
“Unjustly blaming Israel for these casualties will only encourage Hamas and other terror organisations around the world to use human shields,” he added.
“To render this cruel and cynical strategy ineffective, the international community must place the blame for these casualties squarely on Hamas. It must recognize that Israel is fighting the bigger battle of the civilized war against barbarism.”
In the op-ed, Netanyahu also called for an Israeli security zone within Gaza and new Israeli oversight over the Rafah crossing.