Israel rejects truce call, wants 'absolute victory'

Tel Aviv: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a ceasefire demand by Hamas and vowed to press ahead with Israel’s military offensive in Gaza until achieving “absolute victory.”

Netanyahu made the comments on Wednesday shortly after meeting the visiting US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who has been traveling the region in hopes of securing a ceasefire agreement.

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

He 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. Netanyahu also called for the replacement of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hamas had proposed a ceasefire to quiet the guns in Gaza for four-and-a-half months, during which all hostages would go free, Israel would withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip and an agreement would be reached on an end to the war.

The militant group’s proposal was in response to an offer sent last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and cleared by Israel and the United States

Before Netanyahu’s rejection, Blinken said earlier on Wednesday that “a lot of work” remains to bridge the gap between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has made destroying Hamas’ governing and military abilities one of its wartime objectives, and the proposal would effectively leave Hamas in power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities. President Joe Biden said Hamas’ demands are “a little over the top” but that negotiations will continue. The deadliest round of fighting in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has killed over 27,000 Palestinians, leveled entire neighborhoods, driven the vast majority of Gaza’s population from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population to starvation.

Iran-backed militant groups across the region have conducted attacks, mostly on US and Israeli targets, in solidarity with the Palestinians, drawing reprisals as the risk of a wider conflict grows.

Israel remains deeply shaken by Hamas’ Oct 7 attack, in which militants burst through the country’s vaunted defenses and rampaged across southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting some 250, around half of whom remain in captivity in Gaza.

Blinken, who is on his fifth visit to the region since the war broke out, is trying to advance the cease-fire talks while pushing for a larger postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in return for a “clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

But the increasingly unpopular Netanyahu is opposed to Palestinian statehood, and his hawkish governing coalition could collapse if he is seen as making too many concessions. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work,” Blinken told Israel’s ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog. AP

Tel Aviv: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a ceasefire demand by Hamas and vowed to press ahead with Israel’s military offensive in Gaza until achieving “absolute victory.”

Netanyahu made the comments on Wednesday shortly after meeting the visiting US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who has been traveling the region in hopes of securing a ceasefire agreement.

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

He 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. Netanyahu also called for the replacement of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hamas had proposed a ceasefire to quiet the guns in Gaza for four-and-a-half months, during which all hostages would go free, Israel would withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip and an agreement would be reached on an end to the war.

The militant group’s proposal was in response to an offer sent last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and cleared by Israel and the United States

Before Netanyahu’s rejection, Blinken said earlier on Wednesday that “a lot of work” remains to bridge the gap between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has made destroying Hamas’ governing and military abilities one of its wartime objectives, and the proposal would effectively leave Hamas in power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities. President Joe Biden said Hamas’ demands are “a little over the top” but that negotiations will continue. The deadliest round of fighting in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has killed over 27,000 Palestinians, leveled entire neighborhoods, driven the vast majority of Gaza’s population from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population to starvation.

Iran-backed militant groups across the region have conducted attacks, mostly on US and Israeli targets, in solidarity with the Palestinians, drawing reprisals as the risk of a wider conflict grows.

Israel remains deeply shaken by Hamas’ Oct 7 attack, in which militants burst through the country’s vaunted defenses and rampaged across southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting some 250, around half of whom remain in captivity in Gaza.

Blinken, who is on his fifth visit to the region since the war broke out, is trying to advance the cease-fire talks while pushing for a larger postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in return for a “clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

But the increasingly unpopular Netanyahu is opposed to Palestinian statehood, and his hawkish governing coalition could collapse if he is seen as making too many concessions. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work,” Blinken told Israel’s ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog.

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William Murphy

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