Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’ ceasefire proposal – instead favouring “total victory” in Gaza.
Netanyahu, who also branded the deal “delusional”, was speaking after Hamas issued a series of demands in response to an Israel-backed ceasefire proposal.
The Israeli politician instead said negotiations were “not going anywhere”, branding the terms as “bizarre”. Talks to reach a deal are however said to be continuing.
Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Netanyahu said: “There is no other solution but a complete and final victory.
“If Hamas will survive in Gaza, it’s only a question of time until the next massacre.”
It was expected that Israel would take issue with Hamas’s offer. Although a categorical refusal suggests Israeli officials see the effort from Hamas to end the war on its own terms as unacceptable.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri reported labelled Netanyahu’s comments a “form of political bravado”.
While the BBC says negotiations, which are being mediated by Egypt and Qatar, are expected to go ahead in Cairo on Thursday as planned. The BBC says Egypt has called on call parties to show flexibility to reach an agreement.
Hamas suggested a three-part plan as part of its ceasefire proposal on Tuesday. It is said to begin with a 45-day pause in fighting during which female hostages, males under 19, and sick and elderly would be returned by Hamas.
While Israel would exchange women and children. Israeli forces would also pull out of populated areas while hospitals and refugee camps could be rebuilt.
The second phase would see the exchange of hostages and prisoners with Israel withdrawing from Gaza. The final phase would have seen sides exchanging remains and bodies.
The proposal would have also seen food and aid deliveries into Gaza increased. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says 27,700 Palestinians have died in the war with over 65,000 injured.
Israel says 1,300 people were killed when Hamas launched a surprise attack on October 7 last year.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu said Israeli forces had been ordered to ready themselves to move into the southern Gaza city of Rafah. So far, tens of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge in the city to escape fighting.
The United States Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has however warned increasing conflict in Rafah would “exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare”.