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Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on 10 Dec, 2023 Alamy Stock Photo

Israeli PM Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire demands and vows to secure ‘absolute victory’

‘We are on the way to an absolute victory,’ said Netanyahu, who added that the operation would last months, not years.

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’s terms for a ceasefire and hostage-release agreement, calling them “delusional”.

Netanyahu also vowed to press ahead with Israel’s war against Hamas, now in its fifth month, until achieving “absolute victory”.

He made the comments shortly after meeting US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who has been travelling around the region in the hope of securing a ceasefire agreement.

“Surrendering to Hamas’s delusional demands that we heard now not only won’t lead to freeing the captives, it will just invite another massacre,” Netanyahu said in a nationally televised evening news conference.

“We are on the way to an absolute victory,” he said, adding that the operation would last months, not years. “There is no other solution.”

An agreement was proposed by mediators last month that would implement a temporary pause in fighting to allow aid enter Gaza and an exchange of hostages and prisoners.

However, neither Israel nor Hamas has yet signed up to it.

Blinken met with Israeli leaders as part of a trip covering multiple Middle Eastern countries.

Qatar, whose officials have worked on mediating deals, said Hamas has given “some comments” on the proposal but was generally “positive” about it.

Hamas’s reply has been shared with Israel and Blinken intends to discuss it with Israeli leaders today.

Earlier, Blinken said there is “a lot of work to be done” but that he believes an agreement “is possible and indeed essential”. 

Blinken ruled out any arrangement that leaves Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza.

He also said that Israel is the “only power” capable of guaranteeing security in the long term.

A Hamas source said last week that the proposed truce looks for a six-week pause in the conflict, during which time Israeli hostages in Gaza would be swapped for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and more aid would be allowed to enter Gaza.

However, on Monday, Netanyahu said Hamas had presented “demands that we will not accept” for an exchange involving thousands of prisoners. 

washington-dc-usa-13-january-2023-us-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-delivers-remarks-before-he-and-japans-minister-for-foreign-affairs-haya US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

At the same time, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues to take more lives, with another hundred people killed overnight, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Israel’s offensive has killed at least 27,707 people in Gaza since October and displaced more than half of the population of 2.4 million people, as well as destroying hospitals and severely impacting supplies of food and water. 

Israel appears set to push into Rafah, the southern town by the border crossing with Egypt where thousands and thousands of refugees have fled from further north.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said earlier this week that the army “will reach places where we have not yet fought… right up to the last Hamas bastion, which is Rafah”. 

A spokesperson for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, Jens Laerke, said that “intensified hostilities in Rafah in this situation could lead to large-scale loss of civilian lives, and we must do everything possible within our power to avoid that”. 

Additional reporting by AFP and Press Association