Netanyahu rejects proposed ceasefire terms, denounces Hamas’ ‘delusional’ demands

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire and hostage release deal, calling them “delusional,” a stance that complicates efforts to reach an agreement between the sides .

Netanyahu has vowed to continue Israel’s four-month-old war in the Gaza Strip against the militant group Hamas until it achieves “absolute victory.”

The Israeli leader made the comments shortly after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is touring the region in the hope of reaching a ceasefire agreement.

“Giving in to the illusory demands of Hamas that we have heard now will not only not lead to the release of the captives, but it will only invite another massacre,” Netanyahu said during a televised evening news conference at the national scale.

“We are on the path to absolute victory,” Netanyahu said, adding that the operation would last months, not years. “There is no other solution.”

WATCH | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire offer:

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Gaza ceasefire offer

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his commitment to total victory in Gaza, declining Hamas’ recent offer of a ceasefire in Gaza. He said that after destroying Hamas, Israel would ensure that Gaza was “demilitarized forever.”

Hamas cannot maintain control (PM)

Netanyahu has ruled out any arrangement that would leave Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza. He also said that Israel is the “only power” capable of guaranteeing long-term security.

Blinken said Wednesday he believes a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas is still possible, even if the two sides are far apart on the central terms of a deal.

“It’s not about flipping a switch. It’s not yes or no,” he said.

Israeli tanks are seen moving in the Gaza Strip, with a group of destroyed buildings in the background.
Israeli tanks were seen in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, near a series of destroyed buildings. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Hamas presented a detailed three-phase plan that will take place over four and a half months, responding to a proposal developed by the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt. The plan stipulates that all hostages would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including high-ranking militants, and an end to the war.

Israel has made destroying Hamas’ government and military capabilities one of its war goals, and the group’s proposal would effectively leave it in power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities.

US President Joe Biden said Hamas’ demands were “a little over the top” but that negotiations would continue.

The deadliest round of fighting in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has razed entire neighborhoods and driven the vast majority of Gaza’s population from their homes. More than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Iran-backed militant groups across the region have carried out attacks – mainly against US and Israeli targets – in solidarity with the Palestinians, sparking retaliation as the risk of wider conflict increases.

Israel remains deeply shaken by the October 7 attack in which Hamas-led militants broke through the country’s vaunted defenses and rampaged through southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, for most civilians, and kidnapping some 250, about half of whom remain in captivity in Gaza. , according to Israeli officials.

Blinken is trying to advance ceasefire negotiations while pushing for a broader postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a “clear path forward, credible and time-bound towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.

But Netanyahu, increasingly unpopular, is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian stateand his hawkish governing coalition could collapse if he is seen as making too many concessions.

Incessant war, endless stress

There is little talk of major diplomatic agreements in Gaza, where Palestinians yearn for an end to the fighting that has disrupted every aspect of their lives.

“We pray to God that this stops,” said Ghazi Abu Issa, who fled his home and found refuge in the central town of Deir al-Balah. “There is no water, no electricity, no food, no toilets.”

Those living in tents have been inundated by winter rains and floods.

People inspect the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes to their homes in Rafah, Gaza Strip.
Residents inspect the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes to their homes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Wednesday. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

New mothers struggle to get formula and diapers. Some have resorted to solid foods for babies under six months, despite the health risks this poses.

Blinken highlighted the devastation inflicted on civilians in Gaza, saying “the daily toll that (Israel’s) military operations continue to take on innocent civilians remains too high.”

Among the 27,707 Palestinians killed were 123 bodies taken to hospitals in the past 24 hours alone, Gaza’s health ministry said Wednesday, adding that at least 11,000 injured needed to be urgently evacuated from the territory.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says most of the dead are women and children.

Israel has ordered Palestinians to evacuate areas that make up two-thirds of the small coastal territory. Most of the displaced are crowded into the southern town of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, where many live in squalid tent camps and overflowing shelters run by the United Nations.

Hamas continued to put up fierce resistance throughout the territory and its police forces returned to the streets where Israeli troops withdrew. Hamas still holds more than 130 hostages, but around 30 of them are believed to be dead, the vast majority having been killed on October 7.

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