Netanyahu rejects Hamas cease-fire proposal as Blinken visits Israel | EUROtoday

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday forcefully rejected a cease-fire proposal by Hamas, vowing to combat till a “complete victory” had been achieved over the militant group in Gaza — a setback for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Israel hoping to construct help for a humanitarian pause.

Hamas had known as for a three-stage cease-fire deal that will launch Israeli hostages, alive and lifeless, over a greater than four-month interval in change for the entire withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, in keeping with the leaked textual content of its response to a truce proposal verified by The Washington Post.

Netanyahu known as Hamas’s phrases “delusional” in a information convention Wednesday night: “By giving in to Hamas demands, we will only invite another massacre,” he said, adding that Israel would continue its military campaign in southern Gaza.

“Continued military pressure is essential for the hostages’ release,” he stated.

U.S. officials expected both Hamas and Israel to continue to posture publicly against the truce as a negotiating tactic, but an Israeli initiative to continue military operations for months on end would directly contradict Blinken’s goals of reducing hostilities and allowing humanitarian aid into the strip.

Under the broad framework for a deal, hashed out by negotiators from the United States, Qatar, Israel and Egypt in Paris last month, an initial pause in fighting would last for six weeks and bring about the release of all civilian hostages held by the militant group in Gaza. Israel would release three Palestinian prisoners for every hostage Hamas frees.

Hamas offers ‘positive’ reply to proposal for hostage launch deal

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said Tuesday evening that Hamas had delivered a “positive” reply after a week of deliberation, and Qatar had passed it along to Israel. President Biden characterized it on Tuesday as “a little bit over the top.”

Between his conferences Wednesday with high Israeli officers, together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blinken stated U.S. officers had been “intensely” looking at Hamas’s counterproposal.

“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 that was interrupted,” he stated.

It was unclear Wednesday night what Netanyahu’s pledge to maneuver ahead with Israel’s army marketing campaign – together with in Rafah, the final sliver of land its troops haven’t but invaded – would imply for worldwide diplomatic efforts to safe a cease-fire.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, stated in a information convention in Beirut Wednesday {that a} Hamas delegation would head to Cairo Thursday for recent talks convened by Egypt and Qatar. He accused Netanyahu of deceptive the Israeli public and searching for to lengthen the battle.

The textual content of the Hamas proposal was revealed by the Hezbollah-aligned al-Akhbar newspaper Wednesday and verified to The Post by a number of Hamas officers. It envisions three phases, every lasting 45 days, involving the discharge of Israeli hostages and the stays of those that had been killed.

In the primary section, each side would pause combating, and Hamas and different Gaza militant teams would free Israeli nonmilitary hostages, together with ladies, kids, and the aged and sick. In change, Hamas has demanded the discharge of all Palestinian ladies, kids, males over 50 and sick inmates held in Israeli prisons, along with 1,500 male Palestinian prisoners, 500 of whom Hamas would select from amongst these serving life or long-term sentences.

During this stage, Israeli troops ought to withdraw from populated areas; not less than 500 vans of humanitarian assist ought to enter Gaza every day; displaced Gazans ought to be capable to return to their properties and transfer across the Strip freely; Israel ought to permit extra wounded Palestinians to hunt medical remedy overseas; and hospitals ought to be repaired and shelters constructed, in keeping with the Hamas counteroffer.

The second section would see militants launch all male Israeli hostages in change for extra Palestinian prisoner releases and the entire withdrawal of Israel forces from Gaza. The Hamas reply says talks to pave the way in which to “the return of a state of complete calm” should happen earlier than this stage.

During the ultimate 45-day section, Hamas would return the stays of Israelis in change for the our bodies of Palestinians held by Israel.

About 100 hostages are believed to nonetheless be alive, and Israeli officers say that Hamas is holding not less than 31 lifeless our bodies. The “vast majority” of the lifeless had been killed in the course of the Oct. 7 Hamas assault in southern Israel, in keeping with a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. During a earlier pause within the combating in November, 105 hostages — 81 Israelis and 24 international nationals — had been launched in change for greater than 200 Palestinian prisoners.

The Israeli authorities has been below intense stress from many households of hostages to deliver their family members residence, in addition to from these previously held in Gaza. “Netanyahu, if you continue your policy of eliminating Hamas, I fear there will be no hostages [left] to save,” former hostage Adina Moshe stated after the prime minister’s speech Wednesday.

But different households have backed calls by far-right officers to proceed combating till Hamas is eradicated from the Gaza Strip. Zvika Mor, father of Eitan Mor, who was kidnapped from the Nova music pageant on Oct. 7, urged Israel to press on with its battle. “You cannot do peace now,” he stated at a briefing Wednesday.

Miki Zohar, a minister from Netanyahu’s Likud celebration, instructed The Post this week that Netanyahu wouldn’t have the bulk to achieve approval for a deal that requires the “release of thousands of terrorists with blood on their hands, in exchange for part of the hostages, and a long-term stop in fighting.”

Israel would require extra “acceptable terms: one month or 1½ months of a stop in fighting, because we have no intention of stopping the fighting, and a more reasonable number of terrorists — a few hundred, for example,” he stated.

Israel says it should increase operations in Rafah, Gaza’s final refuge

Israel’s army marketing campaign in Gaza has killed greater than 27,000 individuals, in keeping with the Gaza Health Ministry.

Netanyahu stated Wednesday the Israel Defense Forces had been directed to function in Rafah, which he known as considered one of “Hamas’s last strongholds.” He stated civilians in Rafah can be given “safe passage,” nevertheless it was unclear the place else they may go.

More than one million Palestinians are crammed into the tiny strip of land alongside the border with Egypt. Many reside in unsanitary circumstances in tents or makeshift constructions, struggling to search out meals or obtain medical remedy. Aid teams have warned a famine is looming. Israel has intensified its bombing of Rafah this week, with 5 assaults killing 12 individuals within the space on Tuesday alone.

Top U.N. officers, in addition to many governments world wide, have known as for a cease-fire, warning {that a} catastrophic humanitarian scenario is worsening by the day. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres stated Wednesday he was “especially alarmed” about reviews Israel might quickly ship forces into Rafah.

“Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences,” Guterres instructed the U.N. General Assembly.

Israeli authorities dropped leaflets over Rafah on Monday warning they deliberate to bomb the world, with out giving directions on the place civilians ought to evacuate.

“Dropping leaflets like this on Rafah, in light of talk about a military operation, raises our fears in an incredible way,” Ahmed Ismail Musa, 27, instructed The Post. Musa’s household was already displaced earlier within the battle.

“We live in the most crowded area,” he stated. “Our options will be nonexistent.”

A 6-year-old in Gaza City was calling to be rescued. Did anybody discover her?

Blinken’s journey to Israel caps his fifth go to to the Middle East because the Oct. 7 Hamas assault killed about 1,200 Israelis, sparking Israel’s retaliatory battle in Gaza. On Monday and Tuesday, Blinken met with high officers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar to debate efforts to succeed in a cease-fire deal.

Shine additionally with Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas within the West Bank.

The Biden administration is below vital home and worldwide stress to push Israel to finish the battle or do extra to keep away from civilian casualties and improve the supply of desperately wanted humanitarian assist to the besieged enclave. Washington additionally goals to maintain a lid on assaults by Iranian proxies throughout the area in response to Israel’s battle in Gaza.

The United States hopes that the preliminary pause would pave the way in which to a extra everlasting decision to the battle. Washington is pushing for that settlement to incorporate a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a international coverage precedence of the Biden administration earlier than the Oct. 7 assaults roiled the area.

But Riyadh on Wednesday made clear it could solely start diplomatic relations with Israel if “all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip” and a viable Palestinian state is established.

“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the U.S. administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” a assertion from the Saudi Foreign Ministry stated.

Parker reported from Cairo, George from Dubai and Soroka from Tel Aviv. Hazem Balousha in Amman, Jordan, Sarah Dadouch in Beirut, Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv, Heba Mahfouz in Cairo and Karen DeYoung in Washington contributed to this report.