Netanyahu Dismisses Hamas Ceasefire Proposal, Insists on Total Victory

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Yerushalayim on February 7, 2024. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

DOHA (Reuters) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that total victory in Gaza was within reach, rejecting the latest offer from Hamas for a ceasefire to ensure the return of hostages still held in Gaza.

Netanyahu renewed a pledge to destroy Hamas, saying there was no alternative for Israel but bringing about the total collapse of the terrorist organization.

“The day after is the day after Hamas. All of Hamas,” he told a press conference, insisting that total victory against Hamas was the only solution to the Gaza war.

“Continued military pressure is a necessary condition for the release of the hostages.”

A Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, said a Hamas delegation led by senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya would travel on Thursday to Cairo to pursue ceasefire talks with mediators Egypt and Qatar. Hamdan called on Palestinian armed factions to continue fighting.

Hamas had proposed a Gaza ceasefire of four-and-a-half months, during which all hostages would go free, Israel would withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip and an agreement would be reached on an end to the war.

The Hamas offer, the contents of which were first reported by Reuters, was a response to an earlier proposal drawn up by U.S. and Israeli spy chiefs and delivered to Hamas last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the offer with Netanyahu after arriving in Israel following talks with the leaders of Qatar and Egypt. Blinken later met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Israel had previously said it would not pull its troops out of Gaza or end the war until Hamas was wiped out.

Sources close to the negotiations described Hamas as taking a new approach to its longstanding demand to end the war, proposing this as an issue to be resolved in future talks rather than a condition for the truce.

According to the offer document seen by Reuters and confirmed by sources, during the first 45-day phase all Israeli women hostages, males under 19 and the old and sick would be freed, in exchange for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails. Israel would withdraw troops from Gaza’s populated areas.

Implementation of the second phase would not begin until the sides conclude “indirect talks over the requirements needed to end the mutual military operations and return to complete calm”.

The second phase would include the release of remaining male hostages and full Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza. The remains of the dead would be exchanged during the third phase.

Responding indirectly to a question about Palestinian statehood as a Saudi condition for normalization, Netanyahu told the press conference that if Israel defeated Hamas “you will see the circle of peace expand, I have no doubt about it”.

Despite Netanyahu’s statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas’ response “creates space for an agreement to be reached.”

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!