Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas demands for a ceasefire and promised to continue with the military offensive in the Gaza Strip until “absolute victory” is achieved.
Netanyahu made the comments on Wednesday shortly after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been traveling in the region in hopes of brokering a truce.
“We are on our way to achieving an absolute victory,” Netanyahu said, adding that the operation will last months, not years. “There is no other solution”.
He ruled out any deal that would leave Hamas in partial or full control of Gaza. He also said that Israel is the “only power” capable of guaranteeing long-term security.
Netanyahu also called for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRWA) to be replaced.
Blinken is scheduled to hold a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), more than 27,500 Palestinians and more than 1,300 Israelis have died since October 7. Photo EFE
Previously, Blinken had said that “There is a lot of work ahead” to resolve disagreements between Israel and Hamas over a new ceasefire and the release of hostages, after the Palestinian militia presented conditions that contradict the objectives of the Israeli military operation.
Hamas presented a three-phase plan that would be developed over four and a half months, in response to the proposal prepared by the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt. According to him, all the hostages would be freed in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including prominent insurgents, and the end of the war.
US President Joe Biden has said that the demands of the insurgent group They were “a little exaggerated” but that the negotiations will continue.
In the deadliest confrontation in the history of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, they have died more than 27,000 Palestiniansentire neighborhoods have been razed, the vast majority of Gaza's population has been forced to abandon their homes and a quarter of the population has nothing to eat.
Iran-backed insurgent groups in the region have carried out attacks, mainly against US and Israeli targets, in solidarity with the Palestinians, prompting retaliation while increasing the risk of the conflict expanding.
Israel remains deeply shocked by the Hamas attack on October 7 that left about 1,200 people deadmostly civilians, in addition to taking about 250 hostages, almost half of whom remain captive in Gaza.
Misery grows in Gaza
In Gaza, where Palestinians long for an end to fighting that has shaken 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 is no water, no electricity, no food or bathrooms.”
Those living in tents have been affected by winter rains and flooding. “They have humiliated us,” she added.
United States Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo EFE
Mothers with newborn babies have not been able to get milk or diapers, and if they are available they are at extremely inflated prices. Some are giving solid foods to babies under 6 months old despite the health risks that come with it.
The number of Palestinians killed in the conflict amounted to 27,707 people, indicated the Ministry of Health in Gaza, controlled by Hamas. That includes 123 bodies brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours, the ministry said Wednesday. At least 11,000 injured need to be urgently evacuated from Gazahe added.
The ministry does not distinguish between civilian victims and combatants, but maintains that two-thirds of those killed are women and minors.
Israel has ordered Palestinians to evacuate areas that make up two-thirds of the small coastal enclave. Most of the displaced are crowded into the southern town of Rafahnear the border with Egypt, many of them in overcrowded shelters run by the UN.
Hamas continues to put up firm resistance throughout the territory and its police have returned to the streets in places where Israeli troops have withdrawn. Hamas is holding more than 130 hostages, but it is believed that about 30 of them are dead, the majority since October 7.
Hamas's response to the ceasefire proposal was published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, close to the powerful Lebanese militia, Hezbollah. A Hamas official and two Egyptian officials confirmed its authenticity. A fourth official, aware of the negotiations, later clarified the sequence of the releases. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press about the delicate negotiations.
In the first phase, lasting 45 days, Hamas would release women and children still held captive, as well as elderly and sick men in exchange for an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Israel would also withdraw from populated areas, cease its air operations, allow the entry of much more aid as well as the return of Palestinians to their homes, including in the devastated northern part of the enclave.
The second phase, which would be negotiated during the first, would include the release of the rest of the hostages, mostly soldiers, in exchange for all Palestinian detainees over the age of 50, including high-ranking insurgents. Israel would release another 1,500 prisoners, 500 of whom would be chosen by Hamasand would complete its withdrawal from Gaza.
In the third phase, both sides would exchange the bodies of the hostages and dead prisoners.
Netanyahu has said that I would not seek an agreement at any costpointing out that he will not accept the release of high-ranking militiamen.
The fate of the hostages
In Israel, attention is focused on the plight of the hostages. Families and the population They demand an agreement with Hamas, afraid that time is running out. Israeli forces have rescued only one hostage, while the insurgent group said several were killed in Israeli airstrikes and failed rescue missions.
More than 100 captives, mostly women and children, returned home during a week-long ceasefire in November in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Thousands of people have participated in weekly protests calling for the release of the hostages and the calling of new elections. But Netanyahu is beholden to his far-right coalition allies, who have threatened to topple the government if he gives too much in negotiations.