Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday rejected calls for a cease-fire as the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees warned a suspension of hostilities in Gaza “has become a matter of life and death for millions.”
Over 8,500 Palestinians have died since the fighting began, mostly women and minors, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Israel has launched relentless airstrikes on the besieged territory and is progressing in its ground offensive against Hamas following the militant group’s unprecedented attack on Oct. 7 that left over 1,400 Israelis dead, according to Israeli authorities. Hamas also kidnapped over 200 people.
Netanyahu ruled out an end to the fighting, saying calls for a cease-fire “are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas.”
“That will not happen,” he added.
The Israeli leader said his country’s focus right now is on defeating the enemy, and called on all civilized nations to support his country in its war effort.
“The Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war,” he said. “This is a time for war.”
Meanwhile, the situation on the ground appears increasingly dire. Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, called out Israel for carrying out what he described as “collective punishment” of Palestinians.
Israel has only allowed limited humanitarian aid to enter the territory and cut off fuel supplies to Gaza, among other things, following Oct. 7.
The Biden administration is not backing calls for a cease-fire, but has urged humanitarian pauses to protect civilian life.
The White House on Monday also addressed criticism from Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) that the U.S. wasn’t calling out Israel’s siege of Gaza even though it previously condemned Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
“Israel is not deliberately trying to kill civilians,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications told “CNN This Morning.” “They are going after Hamas. We want to make sure they do it in a cautious, careful, deliberate way, but it is not a war aim of Israel to kill innocent civilians the way it is a war aim of Vladimir Putin to do that to Ukraine.”