Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a proposal by Hamas to end the war and release captives in exchange for withdrawing Israeli forces, releasing prisoners and accepting the armed group’s governance of Gaza.
Netanyahu, who is under growing domestic pressure to bring the captives home, said that accepting Hamas’s conditions would mean leaving the armed group “intact” and that Israel’s soldiers had “fallen in vain”.
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“I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
“If we accept this, we won’t be able to guarantee the safety of our citizens. We will not be able to bring evacuees home safely and the next October 7 will only be a matter of time,” the Israeli leader added.
Netanyahu earlier repeated his opposition to an independent Palestinian state, insisting he would not compromise on “full Israeli security control over the entire area in the west of Jordan”.
Netanyahu is under pressure on multiple fronts, as families of the captives call for a deal to secure the return of their loved ones, members of his far-right ruling coalition push for an escalation of the war, and growing differences cloud relations with the administration of United States President Joe Biden.
On Sunday evening, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum began a protest outside the Israeli leader’s private home in Jerusalem, pledging not to leave until he agrees to a deal on the captives’ release.
“If the prime minister decides to sacrifice the hostages, he should show leadership and honestly share his position with the Israeli public,” the group said in a statement.
Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said that the protesters feel they are not being seen or heard by their government.
“They feel neglected and forgotten,” Salhut said. “You also have dissent from within the war cabinet – with one member saying that perhaps a total defeat of Hamas is not a realistic goal for the government to be aiming for and that there should also be elections held, so that the public can show their confidence in the government.”
Hamas freed more than 100 captives in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners as part of a brief truce brokered in late November by Egypt, Qatar and the US.
Hamas is still holding 136 people in captivity, according to Israeli officials.
At least 25,105 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel declared its intention to eliminate Hamas in response to the group’s October 7 attacks.
Hamas on Sunday released a report describing the attack on southern Israel as “a necessary step and a normal response” while admitting “faults” in its execution.