JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel will increase "military pressure" on Palestinian militant group Hamas in a bid to secure the release of hostages held in Gaza.

"In the coming days we will increase the military and political pressure on Hamas because this is the only way to free our hostages," Netanyahu said in a video statement on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover, threatening to "deliver additional and painful blows" without specifying.

Despite an international outcry, Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the army will launch a ground assault on Rafah, a southern Gaza city so far spared an Israeli invasion where more than 1.5 million Palestinians have taken refuge.

Israeli PM vows to invade Rafah despite world ‘pressure’

The army has said some of the hostages abducted from southern Israel during Hamas's October 7 attack that sparked the war were being held in Rafah.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a televised statement later on Sunday that "the chief of staff has approved the next steps for the war," without offering details.

"On Passover, it will be 200 days of captivity for the hostages... We will fight until you return home to us."

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