Nov. 3 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel is committed to its military operation in Gaza and will not consider a temporary ceasefire unless hostages in the region are released.
His statement came after discussions regarding a possible ceasefire from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived in Israel Friday to discuss matters of national security with Netanyahu, along with President Isaac Herzog and the Israeli war cabinet.
Blinken addressed numerous issues in connection with the conflict, expressing a concern that the fighting could spread because of Iran-supported groups such as Hezbollah.
Blinken said he addressed the civilian deaths of Palestinians directly to Netanyahu, along with recommendations of how to slow the deaths, and echoed U.S. President Joe Biden's call for a humanitarian pause.
"As Israel continues its campaign to defeat Hamas, how it does it matters," Blinken said. "It matters because it's the right and lawful thing to do. It matters because failure to do so plays into the hands of Hamas and other terror groups."
Blinken said he saw the images of Hamas fighters coldly killing unarmed Israeli civilians in front of their children, as well as dead Palestinian children being pulled from buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes.
"Hamas doesn't care one iota for the welfare and well-being of the Palestinian people," Blinken said. "It cynically and monstrously uses them as human shields, putting its commanders and command posts, its weapons and ammunition within or beneath residential buildings, schools, mosques and hospitals.
"Civilians should not have to pay the price for its inhumanity and brutality. We offered Israelis advice only the best of friends can offer on how to minimize civilian deaths."
Blinken said 35 Americans have been killed by Hamas in its attack on Israel so far and that humanitarian aid needs to start flowing in Gaza. He said he also pointed out that more U.S. residents and other foreign nationals should have a pathway to lead Gaza sooner than later.
As far as attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon and other groups supported by Iran, Blinken said the United States is prepared to respond with force if they try to widen the conflict. He said he had spoken to other U.S. allies in the Middle East about their involvement as well.'
"The United States has and will continue to respond to Iran's proxies," Blinken said. "Our partners in the Middle East have a critical role to play in responding. That will be a major focus of my conversations throughout this trip."
The number of deaths related to the conflict is reportedly closing in on the 9,000 mark, with thousands more stranded without essential services such as water and medical care.