Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military will continue its battle against Hamas in Gaza with "full force", in a rejection of growing international calls for a ceasefire.
He told a televised address a ceasefire would only be possible if militants in Gaza release all of the about 240 hostages taken in the deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.
The leader also insisted that after the war, now entering its sixth week, Gaza would be demilitarised and Israel would retain security control there. Asked what he meant by security control, Mr Netanyahu said Israeli forces must be able to enter Gaza when necessary to hunt down militants.It comes after French President Emmanuel Macron joined called for a stop to the bombing in Gaza.
He told the BBC: “I think there is no justification precisely to attack civilians.
“De facto, today civilians are bombed, de facto, there’s babies, there’s ladies, there’s old people are bombed and killed.
“There is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So we do urge Israel to stop”
Asked if he was disappointed the United States and the UK were not joining him in a call for ceasefire, he said: “No, I hope they will”.
“I think it is very important to see the whole story, but I think this is the only solution we have, this ceasefire,” he added.
Since Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, Hamas officials said the territory’s death toll has surpassed 11,000 while more than 100,000 Palestinians have fled south over the past two days, according to Israel.
On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK Government supports a “humanitarian pause” in the Gaza Strip above a wider ceasefire.
Speaking at the G7 Foreign Minister talks in Japan, the Associated Press reported Mr Cleverly saying a ceasefire would hamper Israel’s ability to defend itself.
He said: “We have seen and heard absolutely nothing that makes us believe that Hamas leadership is serious about (a) ceasefire.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is facing calls to support a humanitarian ceasefire rather than a pause from within his party.
Sir Keir said: “There is a division on whether we should call for a humanitarian pause, which is my position as I’ve set out very, very clearly, and some who think we should have a ceasefire, which again I’ve rejected very clearly.”
The White House announced this week that the Israeli government agreed to halt its offensive in Gaza for four hours each day and open a second route for those looking to escape the north of the territory.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Friday in New Delhi that “far too many” Palestinians have died and more needs to be done to save lives and get aid where it is most needed.
Mr Blinken said the US “appreciates” Israel’s steps to minimise civilian casualties but that is not enough.