JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (Jan 21) rejected conditions presented by Hamas to end the war and release hostages that would include Israel’s complete withdrawal and leaving Hamas in power in Gaza.
As Israeli planes resumed bombing Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters the Israeli leader’s refusal to end the military offensive in Gaza “means there is no chance for the return of the (Israeli) captives.”
“In exchange for the release of our hostages, Hamas demands the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the murderers and rapists,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “And leaving Hamas intact.”
“I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.
Under a deal brokered in late November by the United States, Qatar and Egypt, more than 100 of the estimated 240 hostages taken captive in Gaza during an attack by Hamas militants on Oct 7 were freed in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.
Since that deal ended Netanyahu has faced mounting pressure to secure the release of the 136 hostages who remain in captivity.
The Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum demanded in a statement that Netanyahu “clearly state that we will not abandon civilians, soldiers, and others kidnapped in the October debacle”.
“We must advance the deal now,” it said. “If the prime minister decides to sacrifice the hostages, he should show leadership and honestly share his position with the Israeli public.”
Relatives of the hostages at a protest outside Netanyahu’s residence demanded action.
“We need the government to now fix the problem that they have created and get these hostages home immediately,” said Jon Polin, father of Hersh Goldberg-Polin.
Netanyahu also took a stronger line on the issue of Palestinian statehood than previously.
“I will not compromise on full Israeli security control of all territory west of the Jordan River,” he said.