Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday his nation's military has begun "the second stage of the war" against Hamas by expanding ground operations in Gaza despite growing and widespread calls for a humanitarian truce.

The prime minister said at a press conference that the war will be "long and hard," as he vowed to rescue more than 200 hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.

More than 9,000 people have been killed in Gaza and Israel since the fighting broke out on Oct. 7. Gaza's death toll has reached 7,650 killed, its health authorities said, while residents of the enclave are also grappling with shortages of food, water and medicines, among other necessities.

An injured child is carried through a hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza, on Oct. 29, 2023.  (Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution Friday calling for a "humanitarian truce" to deliver essential supplies to the Gaza Strip, with the backing of 121 countries, while the United States, Israel and 12 others opposed and 44 countries, including Japan, abstained.

The Israeli military said Friday that it was expanding its ground operations in Gaza while stepping up air strikes that have caused widespread destruction.

Hamas has reportedly offered to free hostages it kidnapped in exchange for the release of all Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Netanyahu said at the press conference the idea of a hostage swap deal had been discussed within the Israeli war cabinet but declined to elaborate, according to reports.


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