Exclusive: Israeli official says pressure is key to hostage release in Gaza

A senior Israeli government official stressed in an interview with NHK that stepping up pressure on Hamas is necessary to secure the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

Mark Regev, a senior advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke in an exclusive interview with NHK.

Regev said Israel's goal is to destroy Hamas and "end their role of the Gaza Strip."

He said negotiations for the release of hostages are taking place through a third party. More than 240 Israeli and foreign nationals are being held in Gaza.

Regev added that the only way to get the hostages out is by putting more pressure on Hamas, which is why Israeli ground forces are intensifying their operation.

He blamed Hamas for the rise in civilian casualties in Gaza. He said the group is using Gaza civilians as human shields, forcing Israel to fight "a very difficult war."

Regev stressed, "We will make a maximum effort to reduce as much as possible the level of civilian casualties."