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Israel Rejects Cease-Fire Calls Until Hamas Releases All Hostages

FILE — Demonstrators supporting Israel hold signs next to demonstrators calling for a cease-fire, in front of the White House in Washington, DC, Nov. 15, 2023.
FILE — Demonstrators supporting Israel hold signs next to demonstrators calling for a cease-fire, in front of the White House in Washington, DC, Nov. 15, 2023.

U.S. and Israeli officials say there are ongoing negotiations to help release the hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, according to media reports. But Israeli officials refuse to give details due to what they say is the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

"I am not going to comment on air about sensitive negotiations as human lives hang in the balance," Eylon Levy, a spokesperson for the Israeli government, told VOA on Saturday.

"We are doing everything we can to bring them home," he added.

Israel says the Israel Defense Forces, IDF, discovered a Hamas command center, tunnels and ammunition at the Shifa hospital.

Hamas and some doctors deny the Israeli claims.

Levy said Hamas is not a credible source for anything.

"As for the doctors at the hospital, perhaps some are good people, but you have to understand that they live under an authoritarian regime. Hamas dictates what they have to say, and the doctors are not allowed to speak freely," the Israeli government spokesperson said.

Hamas enjoys a lot of support among Palestinians, Levy noted, adding "the fact that those doctors are not telling us the truth about a Hamas compound in the basement is not surprising."

I can confirm we are revealing and exposing the evidence, he said.

Speaking on calls by some Israelis for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, Levy said the people have a right to be angry after the failure that led to the massacre on October 7th.

Netanyahu said "after the war, after we win this war, after Hamas is defeated, everyone is going to have to give the Israel public answers including him (Netanyahu), everyone will have to take responsibility," Levy added.

Levy rejected calls by some members of the international community who say the Middle Eastern nation must end its military operations in Gaza.

"There will be no end to the fighting that leaves our hostages in Gaza, and Hamas in power," he emphasized.

"There is only one way this war can end and that is with the total destruction of Hamas military and governing capability in the Gaza strip so that Gaza can never pose a threat to Israel," Levy said.

As for the international community, he said, "we know we have the good nations of the world behind us, and the goal of this mission must be to destroy Hamas," he reiterated.

Meanwhile, South Africa has officially referred Israel to the International Criminal Court over allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This, as the ruling party also backs calls for a parliamentary measure to close the Israeli embassy in South Africa.

Hamas has denied it targeted civilians to kill or kidnap them but has said other groups might have done that. However, several governments, including the United States, and independent international news outlets have said there is ample evidence taken from Hamas fighters who were captured or killed on Oct. 7, confirming civilians were targeted.