Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks at his press conference, this evening (Sunday, 31 March 2024), at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem [translated from Hebrew]:

"Citizens of Israel, I would like to commend the action of the IDF and the ISA in Shifa. Last week, our forces operated there in exemplary fashion. Shifa has become a main terrorism command center for Hamas. The surprise action by our forces was precise and surgical. They eliminated over 100 terrorists, including senior commanders, and additional terrorists surrendered. No hospital anywhere in the world looks like this; this was a terrorist lair.

The important information that our forces obtained during the operation will assist them in locating our hostages and in preparing for the continuation of the fighting. Indeed, we are continuing operations in the Strip, in Lebanon and far afield as well.

At the same time, I have approved the IDF operational plan for Rafah. The IDF is prepared for the evacuation of the civilian population and for the provision of humanitarian assistance. This is the right thing both operationally and internationally. This will take time but it will be done. We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there for one simple reason: There is no victory without entering Rafah and there is no victory without eliminating the Hamas battalions there. This is a fundamental part of the goals of the war, which also include returning all of our hostages.

I would like to tell you that the distress and the pain of the hostages' families rends my heart. I think that they rend all of our hearts. It is difficult to imagine the anguish of the families that are concerned about the fate of their loved ones, the tribulations of not knowing and of endless worrying. Their loved ones are our loved ones, the hostages.

Amit Soussana and additional female hostages have given chilling testimony of the harsh [...] abuse that was perpetrated on them. This testimony is infuriating as is the silence of global women's organizations, a silence that screams to high heaven.

Last Thursday and today, I met again with the families of the hostages, together with my wife Sara. My wife sent a letter to the mother of the Emir of Qatar, the Sheikha Moza. I still await her response.

We listened to the families and embraced them. I understand their distress and desire to do everything to return the hostages and I fully share this desire.

As Prime Minister of Israel, I am doing everything, and will do everything, to bring our loved ones back home. Our efforts to return the hostages are continuing all the time. Whenever precise intelligence information comes in and operational conditions allow it, I approve rescue operations, which entail risk to the lives of our heroic fighters, who join in the mission. To my joy, there have also been successes.

But most of our action is a combination of military pressure and determined negotiations, which has already led to the release by our forces and our efforts, of approximately half of the hostages. Together with the negotiating team and the Cabinet, I am working around the clock to free all of our hostages. I am doing so while balancing between the necessary pressure on Hamas and the flexibility that is possible in the negotiations.

Whoever says that I am not doing everything to return our hostages – is mistaken and is misleading others. Whoever knows the truth and still repeats this lie is causing unnecessary pain to the hostages' families.

The truth is that when Israel shows flexibility in the negotiations, Hamas hardens its positions. Hamas is demanding the cancellation of the corridor and the unsupervised return of Gazans – including Hamas terrorists – to the northern Strip. These demands by Hamas have security ramifications that I will not detail here. With all of the difficulty that this entails, the negotiations must be conducted with level-headedness and prudent determination. This is the only way to return our hostages – all of our hostages.

The claim that if we agree to more and more concessions every two days, that this will lead to a deal, is the opposite of the truth. Such an approach in the negotiations will not bring release closer but push it further away. The test of the results is not in our seeing that we are making efforts to reach a deal, but in achieving release, in the actual return of our hostages back home.

I would like to say something else. Calls for elections now during the war, a moment before victory, will paralyze Israel for at least six months; in my estimate, for eight months. They will paralyze the negotiations for the release of our hostages and in the end will lead to ending the war before achieving its goals and the first to commend this will be Hamas, and that says it all.

I reiterate: I am committed to returning all of our hostages, women and men, civilians and soldiers, the living and the victims. I will not leave even one behind.

With G-d's help, we will be successful. Together we will fight and together we will win."