Netanyahu rejects Hamas cease-fire terms, says troops to push into Rafah

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Tel Aviv, Israel — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas demands for a cease-fire and vowed to press ahead with Israel’s military offensive in Gaza until achieving what he called “absolute victory.” He also said — despite myriad warnings from humanitarian agencies of possible dire consequences — that he had ordered the Israel Defense Forces to prepare to push into the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Most of the roughly 1.5 million Palestinians displaced from their homes by the war in Gaza have packed into the southern city near the border with Egypt or the area around it. Many are living in squalid tent camps and overflowing U.N.-run shelters.

Netanyahu made the comments Wednesday shortly after meeting visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been traveling across the region in hopes of securing a cease-fire agreement.

Israel's Netanyahu meets US' Blinken amid talks for Gaza cease-fire
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in West Jerusalem, Feb. 7, 2024.


The U.S. has been pushing Israel to adjust its tactics in Gaza amid soaring deaths. Officials in the Hamas-run enclave say the death toll is nearing 28,000. Many of those casualties have been women and children, but Hamas officials do not differentiate between combatants and civilians in their statistics.

“We are on the way to an absolute victory,” Netanyahu said, adding that the IDF’s operation in Gaza would last months, not years.

“There is no other solution,” the Israeli leader said, adding that agreeing to the terms proposed by Hamas, which has long been designated as a terror organization by Israel, Hamas and the European Union, would “invite another massacre.”

Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 terror attack on southern Israel, which saw the militants kill about 1,200 people and take more than 200 others hostage, sparked the current war in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which Hamas has controlled for almost two decades.

Israel expands Gaza assault to Rafah


Netanyahu ruled out any arrangement that leaves Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza, which the group’s latest proposal would effectively have done, according to full details of it published by a media outlet closely associated with the group’s Lebanese allies, Hezbollah.

Netanyahu also said Israel was the “only power” capable of guaranteeing security in the long term.

The Israeli premier also called for the replacement of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. The agency is facing an investigation commissioned by the U.N. after Israel said a dozen of its staff members took part in the Oct. 7 terror attack.

Blinken was scheduled to give a news conference later Wednesday.