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Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire plan, vows ‘absolute victory’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday (February 7) rejected Hamas’s plan to end the war in Gaza, vowing to continue the fight against the militants until “absolute victory” is achieved.

The Israeli leader rejected an offer from Hamas that would have included an end to four months of fighting and the phased release of some 100 hostages held by Hamas over four and a half months in exchange for the hundreds imprisoned by Israel. Palestinians. But the Hamas proposal also requires Hamas militants to retain control of the narrow territory along the Mediterranean coast and the right to rebuild military capabilities.

“We are on the path to absolute victory. There is no other solution,” Netanyahu told a news conference after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He said Israel’s war would only require months, not years.

Blinken, who held his own news conference late Wednesday, is in the midst of a fifth round of talks with Middle Eastern leaders to end the war that has so far failed to bear fruit. The war broke out after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people. Hamas health officials in Gaza said that Israel’s counteroffensive has killed more than 27,500 people and displaced about 2 million Gazans.

Blinken said that although the positions of the two sides are far apart, an agreement is still possible. He said it was part of the process of difficult negotiations. “This is not about turning off a light switch. This is not a ‘yes’ or a ‘no,'” Blinken said.

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Netanyahu rejects any arrangement that would give Hamas full or partial control of Gaza. He also said that Israel is “the only great country” that can guarantee long-term security. The United States has called for a reinvigorated Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but Netanyahu has also rejected that demand.

While some critics inside and outside Israel have accused Netanyahu of not having a clear plan for governing Gaza after the war, he has bluntly said, “The day after the war is the day there will be no Hamas. All Hamas.

“Ahead of his own news conference, Blinken acknowledged that there was still “a lot of work” to be done before a new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants could be implemented in Gaza and hostages held by Hamas could be released.

Israel appears open to a multi-week ceasefire in exchange for the release of the hostages, a plan negotiated by Israel, the United States, Qatar, and Egypt.

Netanyahu has recently stepped up pressure on Qatar, questioning its mediation role and urging it to use its leverage with Hamas to free the hostages.

Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that Israel’s strategy has shifted due to Qatar’s negotiating position, which he said In line with Hamas’s demands, Israel rejected Hamas’s demands.

“Qatar’s current position in the negotiations is that of Hamas, a permanent ceasefire, and the withdrawal of all Israeli forces in exchange for the release of the hostages. This is an unacceptable end state for the Israelis,” Goldberg recently told reporters at a telephone press conference.

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Hamas has outlined a four-and-a-half-month, three-phase plan to release all hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and end the war, with Hamas continuing to rule Gaza and being allowed to rebuild its army.

U.S. President Joe Biden said earlier this week that Hamas’ ceasefire demands were “a little excessive” but that talks would continue.

In its proposal, Hamas called for three 45-day phases, starting with the release of all remaining women and children, as well as the elderly and sick, in exchange for Israel releasing an unknown number of Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas’ plan calls for Israel to withdraw its troops from densely populated areas and end airstrikes while allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza and allowing Palestinians to return to their homes, including in the devastated northern Gaza.

The second phase will be negotiated during the implementation of the first phase, which includes the release of all remaining hostages, most of whom are military personnel, in exchange for Israel releasing all Palestinians over 50 years old in its custody, including senior militants.

Israel will release an additional 1,500 prisoners, 500 of whom will be designated by Hamas, and complete its withdrawal from Gaza.

In the third stage, the two sides will exchange the remains of hostages and prisoners. Israel said it believed more than 20 of the 130 hostages still being held in Gaza had died or been killed.

The previous temporary ceasefire in late November lasted for a week and resulted in the release of more than 100 hostages in Gaza and 240 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The Israeli military said on Tuesday that 31 of the remaining hostages were dead.

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United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at the United Nations that in the Gaza Strip, 20 partners have provided food aid, assisting approximately 1.8 million people from January 29 to last Sunday.

In addition, the World Food Program (WFP) distributed more than 190,000 food packages in January, enough to feed approximately 955,000 people for 10 days. Dujarric said the food parcels were provided to displaced people living in informal camps and host communities in the Gaza Strip.

Also on Tuesday, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a statement that as hostilities in Gaza enter their fifth month, the population of the southern city of Rafah has surged fivefold, with many families crowded into shelters and forced to sleep outdoors.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rafah already houses half of Gaza’s population, which is approximately 2 million.

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