update deskIsrael at War

Israel won’t give in to ‘delusional’ Hamas demands, Netanyahu says

"A change in Hamas's positions will allow the negotiations to advance," the Israeli prime minister said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Feb. 7, 2024. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL.

Hostages-for-ceasefire negotiations can only advance when Hamas drops sweeping demands that would strengthen the terror group, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following talks in Egypt.

“Israel did not receive in Cairo any new proposal of Hamas on the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu’s office stated, reiterating that his government refuses to give in to Hamas’s “delusional” demands.

“This week, we freed two of our hostages in a brilliant military operation,” the premier noted in a video on X, in reference to the rescue of Fernando Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70.

“As of now, we have freed 112 of our hostages in a combination of strong military pressure and tough negotiations. This is also the key to freeing more of our hostages: Strong military pressure and very tough negotiations,” he added.

Hamas has refused to back off from its demands for a permanent end to the war in Gaza and the release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners, including terrorist murderers, from Israeli jails.

Bowing to the terror organization’s demands will lead to another massacre and a “major disaster” that no Israeli citizen will accept, Netanyahu warned in an address last week.

Negotiations in Cairo over a possible hostage release deal were initially expected to continue until Friday, The New York Times reported Tuesday, citing an Egyptian government official briefed on the talks.

Senior officials in Jerusalem told Ynet on Wednesday that the Jewish state is currently “waiting for an answer regarding negotiations that took place behind the scenes and wants to see if Hamas will descend from the tall tree it climbed when it set demands.”

Tuesday’s meeting took place with the participation of high-ranking officials from Israel, the United States, Egypt and Qatar, while extended talks would reportedly involve lower-level officials.

Led by Mossad Director David Barnea, the Israeli delegation sat down with U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators on Tuesday in an attempt to secure the release of the 134 hostages remaining in Gaza.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents relatives of many of the captives, slammed the government’s decision to “thwart” the talks by failing to send a new delegation. The group claimed Netanyahu’s move marked “a death sentence” for their loved ones.

The forum announced that starting Thursday, it will form a barricade outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv until Netanyahu and the War Cabinet agree to meet with captives’ families.

Speaking alongside Jordanian King Abdullah II at the White House on Monday, U.S. President Joe Biden said said that the deal under discussion in Egypt would include six weeks of an “immediate and sustained period of calm,” which could lead to a more permanent truce.

A senior Egyptian official and a Western diplomat confirmed to the Associated Press on Tuesday that a six-week ceasefire is on the table, with the Egyptians saying that the summit would focus on “crafting a final draft,” with guaranteed talks toward a permanent ceasefire.

Egypt has reportedly told Hamas that it must agree to an outline with Jerusalem within two weeks to avert an Israeli military operation in the terror group’s last stronghold in Gaza, the southernmost city of Rafah.

Destroying Hamas in Rafah is essential to achieve the objectives of Israel’s defensive operation, Netanyahu reiterated during an interview with ABC News. The interview aired on Sunday, amid intense international pressure against the looming Israel Defense Forces offensive.

Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to submit a detailed plan to the cabinet to evacuate civilians and destroy the battalions in Rafah. The prime minister stressed that that it is “impossible” to win the war without taking the city, his office stated on Friday.

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