Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday rejected a hostage-release proposal as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested a "clear and credible pathway to a Palestinian state" would be best solution to ending Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza.
Blinken's comments came after he met with Netanyahu and Israeli President Isaac Herzog earlier in the day Wednesday.
Netanyahu called the proposal "delusional," describing it as an Israeli surrender, while still seeking to assure hostage families he cared.
"Your loved ones are always standing before my eyes. ... We do not stop working for the release of our abductees -- even now," Netanyahu told them.
Netanyahu vowed to press on to destroy Hamas.
Officials for the United States, Qatar and Egypt arranged the proposed cease-fire, but Blinken said Hamas responded with a counter offer that included obvious "non-starters."
Although the response from Hamas included non-starters, Blinken said there is "space" to work out a viable deal that could help establish long-term peace in the Middle East.
"Iran and its proxies" are trying to sabotage any peace agreement and want to "escalate and expand the cycle of violence," Blinken added.
Blinken said Israel has the responsibility and obligation to place the safety and well-being of civilians "first and foremost in mind" when expanding its military operation into Rafah.
He said Rafah has between 1.2 million and 1.4 million people living or seeking refuge in the city.
Netanyahu told reporters Wednesday that anyone would say no to Hamas' terms for a hostage release, which include a long pause in fighting, permanent ceasefire and a complete Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza. But he left the door open for further negotiation to try to release the estimated 130 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza.
The State Department said in a statement after meeting with Netanyahu, "The Secretary reaffirmed the United States' support for Israel's right to ensure the terrorist attacks of October 7 are never repeated and stressed the importance of taking all possible steps to protect civilians in Gaza.
"The Secretary and Prime Minister discussed the latest efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages and the importance of increasing the amount of humanitarian assistance reaching displaced civilians throughout Gaza," the statement read.
In remarks released by the State Department earlier Wednesday, Blinken had expressed hope that the release of hostages could resume.
He added that, "There are so many innocent men, women, and children who are suffering as a result of the attacks perpetrated by Hamas and now being caught in a crossfire of Hamas's making. We all have an obligation to do everything possible to get the necessary assistance to those who so desperately need it."
During a Wednesday press conference, 16-year-old released hostage Shar Calderon, whose father Ofer remains a Hamas hostage, described captivity in Gaza as hell and said her soul was murdered even though she physically survived the ordeal.
At that same news conference, freed hostage Adina Moshe said that, if Netanyahu doesn't change his response, there will be no hostages left to return.
Egypt on Thursday intends to host a new round of negotiations to implement a cease-fire in Gaza, state-run Egyptian TV and other news outlets reported.