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Netanyahu: Israel Won’t Accept ‘Insane Demands,’ Victory ‘Within Reach’

Families of Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 6, 2024.
(Credit: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel will not agree to the “insane demands” Hamas is making to release the 136 remaining hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address on Wednesday night, Feb. 7.

Bowing to the terrorist organization’s demands will lead to another massacre that no Israeli citizen will accept, he emphasized, speaking from his office in Jerusalem.

“We are on our way to absolute victory,” he declared. “Victory is now within reach. It’s not a matter of years or decades, but a matter of months.

“The IDF is working miracles and working methodically to achieve all the goals that we set,” said Netanyahu.

Hamas has given an official response to a hostages-for-ceasefire framework proposed by mediators, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced at a press conference in Doha on Tuesday.

“I would like to inform the media that we have received a reply from Hamas with regards to the general framework of the agreement with regard to hostages,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “We are optimistic, and we have delivered the response to the Israeli party.”

On Wednesday, Hamas presented a new counteroffer in response to Israeli objections to its demands for a permanent ceasefire and the release of many Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons.

At press time, the War Cabinet, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Israel Defense Forces operation in Gaza, was expected to meet on Thursday, Feb. 8 to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

Hamas’s latest proposal consists of a three-stage process spanning four and a half months. In the first phase, the terror group would release all of the remaining female hostages, as well as all those under the age of 19, the elderly and the sick. In exchange, Israel would release women and minor security prisoners.

The second stage would see the release of the remaining living male hostages, with bodies being released in the third stage, at the end of which an agreement would be reached to end the war. Negotiations towards ending the war would start in the first phase, according to Hamas’s proposal.

 

‘Position Will Lead to the Continuation of War’

In the draft text, the terror group expresses “hope” for the release of 1,500 terrorists, a third of them “heavy” prisoners with life sentences.

The terrorist group is also demanding a total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the start of the Strip’s rehabilitation and an increase in humanitarian aid.

Israeli officials previously said Hamas’s demand for a permanent end to the war makes the draft a “non-starter.” The release of 1,500 terrorists, including murderers, is likewise out of the question, they said.

“Hamas’s answer was formulated so that Israel would refuse it. Their position will lead to the continuation of the war and [will lead] our forces to other places in Gaza—soon,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken during a meeting earlier on Wednesday, Israeli officials said.

“From day one, Israel has had hope that every hostage will be released. We’re looking forward to the release of 136 Israeli hostages who are being held contrary to all the laws of war and armed conflict,” said Avi Hyman, spokesman for the National Public Diplomacy Directorate in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

“There’s a historic precedent for when we last received hostages back to Israel [in November]. Israel applied tremendous military pressure on Hamas, and that’s what led to an agreement. … The IDF is applying huge military pressure against Hamas, bringing them to their knees, and we hope that they will soon acquiesce and release all 136 hostages,” Hyman added.

The IDF killed around 40 Palestinian terrorists during close-quarters combat in the southern Gaza Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis on Wednesday and arrested 50 gunmen.

A total of 105 hostages, mostly women and children, were released last year as part of a ceasefire deal that Hamas broke when it refused to hand over the last group of captives. The terrorist group had previously released four hostages, and Israeli forces freed one.

According to official Israeli figures, 136 hostages remain in Gaza. However, at least 31 of them are confirmed to have died, and Jerusalem is assessing unconfirmed information indicating that another 20 additional captives have also been killed.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents relatives of the captives, on Tuesday evening confirmed the deaths: “According to the official data we have, there are 31 victims,” the forum said in a statement. “Before the article was released, an official message was given to all the families of the abductees by the liaison officers that there is no change in the situation assessment.”

Asked for comment by the Times, the IDF said that it was still “deploying all available resources to locate and retrieve as much information as possible regarding the hostages currently held by Hamas.” Most of the dead are believed to have been murdered on Oct. 7, the army added.

The names of the deceased have not been released, a representative of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum stressed on Wednesday, noting that “there is nothing new in the status of the Bibas family, also after yesterday’s press release from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.”

Kfir Bibas, 1, has been held hostage since Oct. 7, when he was kidnapped along with his father, Yarden; his mother, Shiri; and his brother Ariel, 4. As of last month, Kfir has spent a quarter of his life in captivity.

Hamas and its terrorist allies abducted 253 people during their rampage across the northwestern Negev, murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and wounding thousands more.

 

Blinken, Netanyahu Hold ‘In-Depth Meeting’ Amid Ceasefire Push

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “held a long and in-depth meeting in private” at the latter’s Jerusalem office earlier on Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The American diplomat arrived in Israel overnight Tuesday for his sixth visit since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

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