Families of hostages demand Netanyahu immediately continue hostage negotiations

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The family members of hostages taken by Hamas demanded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately continue negotiations Thursday, as efforts for a cease-fire have stalled.

“We want a deal. As members of hostage families, we want our family members home immediately. If there’s not a deal immediately, then we want to see the people who need to be at the negotiating table come back to the table,” Abbey Onn, the cousin of one of the hostages, said in a statement. “We need to see Israel at the table with their partners and trying to make diplomacy work.”

Onn and other family members gathered for a virtual press conference Thursday to press Netanyahu after he rejected Hamas’s response to secure the release of hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting.

Netanyahu accused Hamas of dragging the negotiations by having “delusional” demands.

His remarks came after reports found that he ordered his Israeli delegation to stop negotiations in Egypt. Israel did not receive a new proposal from Hamas militants in Cairo, and called for them to change their proposal, The Associated Press reported.

Of the more than 200 hostages taken on Oct. 7, there are about 130 remaining and about a fourth of them are said to be dead, The AP noted.

Family members are concerned that Netanyahu isn’t listening to their demands, and argued they must speak with the war cabinet, as Israeli soldiers prepare to enter the southern city of Rafah in Gaza, which is sheltering more than 1.5 million Palestinians.

Netanyahu has consistently called for Hamas to release hostages and vowed to use military force to demolish Hamas in order to get the remaining hostages back, but relatives are questioning his motives. Since Israel launched its counteroffensive, more than 28,000 Palestinians have died, the Gaza Health Ministry reported.

“If the Prime Minister was committed to releasing the hostages, there would be a team in Cairo negotiating,” Liz Naftali, the great aunt of a former hostage, said in a statement.

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