Netanyahu rejects Hamas demands, complicating ceasefire efforts

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected the conditions put forward by Hamas for a ceasefire and hostage release agreement, promising to continue the war until “complete victory” and rejecting any compromise. Which would allow the group to maintain the militia in whole or in part. control over gaza

Netanyahu’s comments, when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region to try to broker a ceasefire agreement, are a sign that tough diplomacy could be derailed, and it also reveals the wide gap that exists between where the war began. Also remains between Israel and Hamas. This is the fifth month.

Netanyahu said military pressure was the best way to free about 100 hostages still held in the Gaza Strip, where they were taken after Hamas launched a cross-border attack into southern Israel on October 7, sparking the war. Was.

The Prime Minister made his comments in response to a detailed three-phase plan presented by Hamas, which will be completed in four and a half months. The plan, in response to a proposal by the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt, stipulates that all hostages would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, including senior leaders of the terrorist group, should conflict arise. till the end. Ending.

One of Israel’s goals in the war is to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities, and the terrorist group’s proposal would effectively put it at the helm of power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities.

Netanyahu declared in a nationally televised news conference, “According to Hamas’s misleading demands that we heard today will not only not lead to the release of detainees, but will open the door to yet another genocide.”

Following Netanyahu’s comments, Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official, said a delegation would travel to Cairo for more talks, an indication that talks would continue.

For his part, Blinken indicated that reaching an agreement was still possible.

“Although there are some non-negotiable points that are very clear in Hamas’s response, we think they leave room for an agreement and we will continue to do so until we achieve it,” he said at an evening press conference. We will work tirelessly on this.”

Blinken, who is visiting the region for the fifth time since the war began, is also pushing for a comprehensive post-war agreement that would involve Saudi Arabia partnering with Israel in exchange for a “clear, credible and timely path to the creation of a Palestinian state.” Will normalize relations. ,

But Netanyahu, whose popularity is declining, opposes Palestinian statehood, and his ruling coalition could collapse if he is perceived to be making concessions along those lines.

Hamas has presented its terms for the hostage agreementHamas’s response to the ceasefire proposal was published by Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper close to the powerful Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

A Hamas official and two Egyptian officials confirmed its authenticity. A fourth official familiar with the negotiations later clarified the sequence of the release. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press about the talks.

In the first phase, lasting 45 days, Hamas will release women and children still held captive by the Israeli government in exchange for an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners, as well as elderly and sick men. Israel would also withdraw from populated areas, cease its air operations, allow more aid and allow Palestinians to return to their homes, including the devastated northern part of the enclave.

The second phase, which will be negotiated during the first phase, will involve the release of the remaining hostages, mostly soldiers, in exchange for all Palestinian detainees over the age of 50, including high-ranking rebels. Israel will release another 1,500 prisoners, 500 of whom will be selected by Hamas, and complete its withdrawal from Gaza.

In the third phase, both sides will exchange hostages and bodies of dead prisoners.

Victory “is a matter of months”At the press conference in which he responded to Hamas’s demands, Netanyahu said that the Israeli Armed Forces had achieved many of the objectives they had set for themselves and that victory was “a matter of a few months.”

He said the military had destroyed 18 of Hamas’s 24 battalions, destroyed tunnels and killed militants, and that military pressure on the terrorist group was the best way to ensure the release of the hostages. He indicated that preparations were already underway for military forces to enter the border city of Rafah in the south of the territory, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have taken refuge after fleeing the fighting.

“We are on the way to achieving complete victory,” Netanyahu said. “There is no other solution.”

Hamas continues to put up stiff resistance in various parts of the region, and its police forces have returned to the streets in areas where Israeli forces have withdrawn.

Netanyahu ruled out any agreement that would give Hamas control over any part of Gaza. He also said that Israel is “the only power” capable of guaranteeing long-term security.

At a press conference shortly after Netanyahu’s presentation, hostages who were freed as part of a deal in late November said they were concerned that the prime minister’s stance was too harsh and that the remaining captives and their families would pay the price. Will have to.

Adina Moshe, who was released after nearly 50 days in captivity, said through tears, “If you maintain this position of demanding the fall of Hamas, there will be no hostages to release.” Hamas still has more than 130 casualties, but about 30 of them are believed to have lost their lives, most of them during the October 7 attack.

Suffering is increasing in GazaIn Gaza, where Palestinians yearn for an end to the fighting that has upended every aspect of their lives, there is little talk of major diplomatic agreements.

“We pray to God that this ends,” said Ghazi Abu Issa, who fled his home and took refuge in the city of Deir al-Balah in the center of the enclave. “There’s no water, no electricity, no food and no bathroom.”

People living in tents have been affected by winter rains and floods. “They have humiliated us,” he said.

Mothers with newborns are unable to get milk or diapers, and if they are available they are at extremely inflated prices. Despite the health risks, some people still have to resort to solid food to feed babies under 6 months of age.

The health ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza indicated that the number of Palestinians killed in the conflict was 27,707. The ministry said on Wednesday that this included 123 bodies brought to hospitals in the last 24 hours. At least 11,000 injured people need to be immediately evacuated from Gaza, he said.

The ministry’s count does not distinguish between civilian victims and combatants, but says the majority of those killed are women and minors.

Israel has ordered Palestinians to vacate the areas that make up two-thirds of the small coastal region. Most of the displaced are in the southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt, many of them in overcrowded shelters run by the United Nations.


Shurafa reported from Deir al-Balah, Gaza, and Lee from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writers Sammy Magee in Cairo, Joseph Federman in Jerusalem and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.


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