- By Lise Doucet, Senior International Correspondent and Katherine Armstrong
- BBC News, London
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the ceasefire conditions proposed by Hamas, saying that “complete victory” in Gaza was possible within months.
He was speaking after Hamas put forward a series of demands in response to an Israeli-backed ceasefire proposal.
Netanyahu said that negotiations with the group “did not yield anything” and described its terms as “strange.”
Talks continue to try to reach some sort of deal.
“There is no other solution but complete and final victory,” Netanyahu said in a press conference on Wednesday.
He added: “If Hamas manages to remain in Gaza, it is only a matter of time before the next massacre occurs.”
It was expected that Israel would object to Hamas' counteroffer, but this response constitutes a categorical rebuke, and it is clear that Israeli officials view Hamas's efforts to end the war on its terms as completely unacceptable.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, told Reuters news agency that Netanyahu's statements “are a form of political bravado” and show that he intends to continue the conflict in the region.
An Egyptian official source told the BBC that a new round of negotiations, mediated by Egypt and Qatar, is still expected to begin on Thursday in Cairo.
The source said that Egypt called on all parties to show the necessary flexibility to reach a truce agreement.
Netanyahu's rejection of the “fictitious” plan is in stark contrast to Qatar's statements, which described Hamas' response as “positive.”
The draft Hamas document seen by Reuters included these terms:
- The first stage: A 45-day cessation of fighting during which all Israeli hostages, males under the age of 19, the elderly and the sick, will be exchanged for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons. Israeli forces will withdraw from populated areas in Gaza, and the process of rebuilding hospitals and refugee camps will begin.
- The second phase: The remaining male Israeli hostages will be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners, and Israeli forces will leave Gaza completely.
- third level: The two sides will exchange remains and bodies.
The proposed deal would also see an increase in the delivery of food and other aid to Gaza. By the end of the 135-day truce, Hamas said negotiations to end the war would be over.
About 1,300 people were killed during Hamas attacks on southern Israel on October 7 last year.
More than 27,700 Palestinians were killed and at least 65,000 others wounded in the war Israel launched in response, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.
Israeli forces penetrate Rafah
Netanyahu also confirmed on Wednesday that Israeli forces had received orders to prepare for the operation in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled to escape the fighting.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that expanding the conflict to Rafah “will significantly increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare” in the city.
One of the displaced people at the Rafah crossing, near the border with Egypt, told BBC Arabic: “We are afraid of the invasion of Rafah.”
“We sleep in fear and sit in fear. There is no food, and it is cold.”
The Israeli leader's comments represent a blow to the United States' ongoing push for a deal that its top diplomat, Antony Blinken, described as “the best way forward” — though he warned that “there is still a lot of work to do.” “.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Blinken said there were “some unclear matters” in Hamas’ counterproposal. But he added: “We believe it creates space to reach an agreement, and we will work on that relentlessly until we get there.”
Sharon Lifshitz, whose parents were among those kidnapped in southern Israel on October 7 and transferred to Gaza, told the BBC's Newshour program that Netanyahu's rejection of the ceasefire terms announced by Hamas was ” “It will almost certainly amount to a death sentence for more hostages.”
Ms. Lifshitz's mother, Yocheved, 85, was later released, but her father, Oded, remains in captivity.
“My father is 83 years old, and he is weak and cannot continue for much longer,” she said.
He added: “I don't know if the prime minister is thinking about him, or if he actually considers him someone who will return in a coffin.”
Mr. Netanyahu's position also highlights the fundamental and continuing incompatibility between US and Israeli plans for Gaza's future.
He insists on an entity in which Israel maintains overall security control, and Gaza is run by local bodies with no connection to Hamas or any other group.
Washington's vision for the future includes a horizon with a Palestinian state.
The pressing question now is whether something can be salvaged to keep these talks going to achieve another exchange of hostages and prisoners, and a much-needed humanitarian truce, to allow more aid into the Gaza Strip.
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