Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire proposal, vows ‘total victory’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shot down a Hamas-proposed plan to end the war in the Gaza Strip, telling reporters that “there is no other solution besides absolute victory” over the Palestinian movement.

The Hamas-authored document proposes a three-stage, 135-day ceasefire during which Israeli hostages would be swapped for Palestinian prisoners, reconstruction work would begin in Gaza, and talks aimed at a permanent truce would be held while Israeli troops withdraw from the strip.

The text of the plan was leaked to Reuters on Tuesday, and rejected by Netanyahu a day later.

“Surrender to Hamas’s delusional demands, that we’ve just heard, not only would not bring about the freedom of the hostages, it would only invite an additional slaughter; it would invite disaster for Israel that no Israeli citizens want,” Netanyahu said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Crucially, Hamas’ proposal would leave the group in place as Gaza’s governing authority, while an earlier proposal put forward by Qatari and Egyptian negotiators made no mention of who would govern the enclave after the conflict.

Netanyahu insisted that “the day after” in Gaza “is the day after Hamas”. The Israeli premier added that Israel would “ensure that Gaza is demilitarized forever”, and “will act in Gaza wherever and whenever it needs to, to ensure that terror does not again raise its head”.

“We are on the way to total victory,” Netanyahu claimed, adding that “victory is achievable; it’s not a matter of years or decades, it’s a matter of months”.

Netanyahu’s insistence on “total victory” has strained relations between Tel Aviv and Washington, as has his rejection of a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

While the US has not endorsed any particular ceasefire proposal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, telling the Israeli leader that the US views “the establishment of a Palestinian state as the best way to ensure lasting peace and security” in the region, according to a State Department readout.

Israeli forces have been waging war against Hamas for more than 120 days and according to Netanyahu, have made “unprecedented” gains against the fighters. However, while the prime minister claimed that Israeli forces have killed 20,000 Hamas fighters, the Gaza Health Ministry states that around two thirds of the 27,000 people killed in the enclave have been women and children. As of late last month, US intelligence officials believed that Israel had killed as few as 5,000 militants, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Israeli PM denied reports that Hamas was reestablishing itself in northern Gaza, but told reporters on Wednesday that fully eliminating the group was “a process that takes time”.

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