Families of hostages demand Netanyahu immediately continue hostage negotiations

Families of hostages held by Hamas called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to continue negotiations immediately as efforts toward a ceasefire stall.

“We want an agreement. As members of the hostage families, we want our families to return home immediately. If we can’t reach an agreement soon, the people who need to be at the negotiating table must return to the table. We want to see what happens,” Abby Ong, a cousin of one of the hostages, said in a statement. “We need to see Israel sitting at the table with its partners and trying to make diplomacy work.”

Ong and other family members gathered for a virtual news conference on Thursday to press Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected Hamas’s offer to secure the release of hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Hamas of prolonging negotiations by making “delusional” demands.

His remarks followed reports that he had ordered the Israeli delegation to halt negotiations in Egypt. According to the Associated Press, Israel has not received a new proposal from Hamas militants in Cairo and has asked for changes to the proposal.

Of the more than 200 hostages taken on October 7, about 130 remain, and about a quarter of them are said to have died, according to the Associated Press.

As Israeli soldiers prepare to enter the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltered, families fear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not listening to their demands. , argued that it was necessary to discuss this with the wartime cabinet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently called on Hamas to release the hostages and vowed to use military force to destroy Hamas in order to recover the remaining hostages, but relatives have questioned his motives. More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel launched its counterattack, the Gaza Health Ministry reported.

“If the prime minister was serious about freeing the hostages, he would have a negotiating team in Cairo,” Riz Naftali, the great-aunt of a former hostage, said in a statement.

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