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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Hamas proposed hostage deal

Netanyahu
Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected “delusional” Hamas’s conditions for a deal to release the hostages it holds in Gaza, warning that accepting the terms would lead to “another massacre”.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people and took a further 250 hostage, according to Israeli officials, during its October attack that triggered the war. About 110 of the hostages were released during a brief truce last year.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 27,500 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, as well as displacing 1.7mn of the enclave’s 2.3mn people and rendering huge swaths of the territory uninhabitable.

In a press conference on Wednesday night, February 7, Netanyahu instead vowed to continue Israel’s military offensive in Gaza until “total victory” was secured, saying his country would achieve this “within months”.

“We won’t settle for less,” he said.

“Surrendering to Hamas’s delusional demands . . . will not only not lead to the release of the hostages, but will invite another massacre.”

Netanyahu insisted that only military action on Hamas would ensure the release of the roughly 130 Israelis still held by the group, including the bodies of some believed to have died.

He said he had told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who held meetings with senior Israeli officials on Wednesday as part of a visit to several Middle Eastern countries — that after Hamas was toppled, “we will make sure Gaza is demilitarised forever”.

Blinken’s visit, during which he also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, is part of an intense diplomatic push led by the US and Qatar aiming to bring home the hostages and ultimately end the war.

Blinken said on Tuesday that a hostage deal was the “best path to get an extended period of calm” in Gaza and was “indeed essential”.

He added the US was looking “intensely” at Hamas’s proposal. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work and hopefully being able to resume the release of hostages.”

Hamas had demanded a ceasefire lasting four and a half months, an Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza, and the release of at least 1,500 Palestinian prisoners as its price for releasing all the hostages it still holds after its assault on Israel on October 7.

The group’s proposal came in response to a framework agreement brokered in Paris 10 days ago by officials from the US, Egypt, Qatar and Israel, which was designed to facilitate the release of hostages and a six-week pause in hostilities.

Hamas instead proposed a 135-day pause in fighting and a three-phase release of hostages, which it said would lead to a “complete and sustainable calm”.

After Netanyahu spoke, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said at a press conference in Beirut that “Netanyahu’s comments on the ceasefire proposal just now show he intends to pursue conflict in the region”.

“Hamas is prepared to deal with all options,” Hamdan said, adding that a delegation from Hamas’s political wing would visit Cairo to pursue ceasefire talks with Egyptian and Qatari officials.

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