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Israel: Netanyahu rejects Hamas conditions for ceasefire, refuses to release 'thousands of terrorists'

Netanyahu said the military will not withdraw from Gaza until Israel achieves "complete victory" over Hamas and ensure the safe return of the hostages being held by the militant group. This comes after US officials saw progress in negotiations between Israel and Hamas for a ceasefire.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Jerusalem Published on: January 31, 2024 7:51 IST
Israel-Hamas war, Benjamin Netanyahu, ceasefire talks
Image Source : AP (FILE) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel-Hamas war: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday rejected two key demands from Hamas during indirect talks for a ceasefire, saying that the Israeli military will not withdraw from the Gaza and will not release thousands of imprisoned Palestinian militants. During an event on Tuesday, Netanyahu said the war will not end until Israel's 'complete victory' over Hamas and the return of all hostages.

"I hear talk about all kinds of deals. I would like to make it clear: We will not conclude this war without achieving all of its goals. This means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel," said Netanyahu at the Bnei David institutions in Eli. "We will not withdraw the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen. What will happen? Total victory!"

This comes as Netanyahu faces increasing domestic pressure from the families of the hostages as they demand a deal to be struck by the Israeli government for the safe return of their loved ones. Netanyahu recently remarked that such protests organized by families of hostages in Gaza were helping Hamas, according to reports.

Framework for ceasefire

According to several reports, Israel agreed during a meeting in Paris on Sunday with the US, Qatar, and Egypt to a framework that would see all Israeli hostages released, starting with women, children, the elderly and the sick. There would be “phased pauses” in Israel’s war against Hamas while the process played out, The Times of Israel reported.

The framework reportedly does not provide for a permanent ceasefire, but also does not rule one out. US officials were seeing signs of progress in negotiations to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas to release the more than 100 remaining hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for an extended pause in fighting. Qatar’s prime minister on Monday said senior US and Mideast mediators had achieved a framework proposal to present to Hamas for freeing hostages and pausing fighting in Gaza.

Earlier on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Yair Lapid announced that his Yesh Atid party would give its backing to “any deal that brings the hostages home". On the other hand, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir threatened to bring down the government if a “reckless” deal is reached with Hamas.

What is Hamas planning?

Hamas politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh said the group had received the ceasefire proposal put forward after the talks in Paris and will study it, adding that he will visit Cairo for discussions on the plan. Haniyeh said Hamas’ priority is to end Israel’s military offensive and ensure a full pullout of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Additionally, the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which is closely allied with Hamas, said Tuesday that it will not engage in any understandings regarding Israeli hostages without ensuring a comprehensive ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the war rages on as Israeli forces disguised as civilian women and medical workers stormed a hospital Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, killing three Palestinian militants in a dramatic raid that underscored how deadly violence has spilled into the territory from the war in Gaza. 

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces opened fire inside the wards of the Ibn Sina Hospital in the West Bank town of Jenin. It condemned the raid and called on the international community to pressure Israel to halt such operations in hospitals. A hospital spokesperson said there was no exchange of fire, indicating it was a targeted killing.

More than 26,000 people have been killed in Israel's military campaign in Gaza in response to Hamas' October 7 attacks in Israel, where militants killed 1,200 in Israel and took 253 people as captives. The Palestinian Red Crescent says Israeli forces raided the Al-Amal Hospital in the south Gaza city of Khan Younis, where about 7,000 displaced people were sheltering.

Israeli lawmaker faces expulsion

Meanwhile, an Israeli parliamentary committee has recommended expelling a lawmaker for supporting the South African genocide case against Israel in the UN World Court. The Knesset's House Committee on Tuesday passed the measure to expel lawmaker Ofer Cassif by a 14-2 margin.

The proposal now goes to the full 120-member parliament and approval would require a 90-vote supermajority. Cassif is the lone Jewish member of a small predominantly Arab party in parliament called the Joint List. After Tuesday's vote, Cassif said claims that he supports Hamas are a "blatant lie" and called himself a victim of “political persecution and silencing.”

The International Court of Justice on Friday, in a landmark case, ruled in favour of South Africa and ordered Israel to do it all can to prevent death, destruction and acts of genocide in the Gaza Strip, where more than 26,000 people have been killed, and do more to help civilians amid the humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Israeli undercover forces dressed as women and medics storm West Bank hospital, kill 3 militants I VIDEO

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