Jerusalem: Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant accused Hamas on Sunday of playing "psychological games" over hostages after it offered to free all captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
"The stories published by Hamas are part of their psychological games ... Hamas is cynically using those who are dear to us - they understand the pain and the pressure," Gallant told relatives of some of the 230 hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a statement released by his office said.
On Saturday, Hamas's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said the Palestinian militant group was ready for an "immediate" prisoner swap with Israel.
Gallant said the military campaign inside Gaza was also aimed at securing the release of the hostages.
"They seek the collapse of Israeli society from within, and are using the hostages in a brutal manner," he said.
"The military operation is intended, among other things, to increase the chance of returning our people."
Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, has said that about 50 hostages have been killed in Israeli strikes, a claim AFP could not independently verify.
So far the group has released four hostages.