Netanyahu Says No Gaza Ceasefire Until Hamas Destroyed

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TEMPO.CO, Jerusalem – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday, June 1, there could be no permanent ceasefire in Gaza until Hamas was destroyed, casting doubt on a key part of a truce proposal that U.S. President Joe Biden said Israel itself had made.

Biden said on Friday that Israel had proposed a deal involving an initial six-week truce with a partial Israeli military withdrawal and the release of some hostages while the two sides negotiated “a permanent end to hostilities”.

However, Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday said any notion that Israel would agree a permanent ceasefire before “the destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities” was “a non-starter”.

Peace talks have sputtered for months, with Israel demanding the release of all hostages and the destruction of Hamas, while Hamas demands a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the release of many Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas said on Friday it was ready to engage “positively and in a constructive manner” but one of the group’s senior officials Mahmoud Mardawi said in a Qatari television interview that it had not yet received the details of the proposal.

“No agreement can be reached before the demand for the withdrawal of the occupation army and a ceasefire is met,” he said. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction.

The war began on Oct. 7 when fighters from the Islamist Palestinian group rampaged into southern Israel from Gaza, killing more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing more than 250 as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza has left the territory in ruins, led to widespread starvation, and killed more than 36,000 people according to Palestinian health authorities, who say most of the dead are civilians.

Last month Netanyahu defied calls from world leaders by sending Israeli troops into Rafah, the last place in tiny, crowded Gaza that they had not yet entered in force, displacing more than a million Palestinians who had been sheltering there.

Israel said Rafah, on the frontier with Egypt, was the last main stronghold for Hamas in Gaza and its campaign to destroy the group could not succeed until it had entered the city.

On Wednesday Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said he expected the war in Gaza to continue for the rest of 2024 at least.

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