Gaza ceasefire: Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Hamas’s proposed terms

Gaza ceasefire: Israel's PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Hamas's proposed terms
Benjamin NetanyahuIsraeli government

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’s proposed ceasefire terms – saying “total victory” in Gaza is possible within months.

He was speaking after Hamas laid out a series of demands in response to an Israel-backed ceasefire proposal.

He said negotiations with the group were “not going anywhere” and described their terms as “bizarre”.

Talks between negotiators are continuing.

“There is no other solution but a complete and final victory,” Mr Netanyahu told a press conference on Wednesday.

“If Hamas will survive in Gaza, it’s only a question of time until the next massacre.”

He added that Israeli forces have been ordered to prepare to operate in the southern Gaza city of Rafah – where thousands of Palestinians have fled in order to escape the fighting.

The United Nations has warned of many more civilian casualties if fighting escalates in Rafah.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told the Reuters news agency that Mr Netanyahu’s remarks show he intends to pursue the conflict in the region and “are a form of political bravado”.

“The movement [Hamas] is prepared to deal with all options,” Mr Abu Zuhri said.

An Egyptian official source told the BBC that a new round of negotiations is expected to start tomorrow in Cairo, sponsored by Egypt and Qatar.

Egypt calls on all parties to show the necessary flexibility to reach a calm agreement, the source said.

On Tuesday, Hamas had put forward a counter-offer to a ceasefire proposal backed by Israel and the US, and mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

A draft of the Hamas document seen by Reuters news agency listed these terms:

Phase one: A 45-day pause in fighting during which all Israeli women hostages, males under 19, the elderly and sick would be exchanged for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails. Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas of Gaza, and the reconstruction of hospitals and refugee camps would begin.

Phase two: Remaining male Israeli hostages would be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners and Israeli forces leave Gaza completely.

Phase three: Both sides would exchange remains and bodies.

The proposed deal would also see deliveries of food and other aid to Gaza increase. By the end of the 135-day pause in fighting, Hamas said negotiations to end the war would have concluded.

Around 1,300 people were killed during the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on 7 October last year.

More than 27,700 Palestinians have been killed and at least 65,000 injured by the war launched by Israel in response, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman