Israel pushes deeper into Gaza and frees Hamas captive; Netanyahu rejects calls for cease-fire

People on Monday look at photographs of hostages. mostly Israeli civilians who were abducted during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, in Tel Aviv, Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip — Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into Gaza on Monday, advancing in tanks and other armored vehicles on the territory’s main city and freeing a soldier held captive by Hamas militants. The Israeli prime minister rejected calls for a cease-fire as airstrikes landed near hospitals where thousands of Palestinians are sheltering beside the wounded.

The military said a soldier captured during Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 incursion was rescued in Gaza — the first rescue since the weekslong war began. Military officials provided few details but said in a statement that Pvt. Ori Megidish, 19, was “doing well” and had met with her family.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed her home, saying the “achievement” by Israel’s security forces “illustrates our commitment to free all the hostages.”

He also rejected calls for a cease-fire to facilitate the release of captives or end the war, which he has said will be long and difficult. “Calls for a cease-fire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas,” he told a news conference. “That will not happen.”

Netanyahu, who faces mounting anger over Israel’s failure to prevent the worst surprise attack on the country in a half century, also said he had no plans to resign.

Hamas and other militant groups are believed to be holding some 240 captives, including men, women and children. Netanyahu has faced increasing pressure to secure their release even as Israel acts to crush Hamas and end its 16-year rule over the territory.

Hamas, which has released four hostages, has said it would let the others go in return for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including many implicated in deadly attacks on Israelis. Israel has dismissed the offer, and Netanyahu said the ground invasion “creates the possibility” of getting the hostages out, adding that Hamas will “only do it under pressure.”

Hamas released a short video Monday purporting to show three other female captives. One delivers a brief statement — likely under duress — criticizing Israel’s response to the hostage crisis.

It was not clear when the Hamas video was made. The Associated Press usually refrains from reporting details of hostage videos because they show individuals speaking under duress and are often used for propaganda purposes.

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