Netanyahu rejects demands for ceasefire

AFP (File Picture)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed he would not agree to a ceasefire deal that requires the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners or the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

He rejected any deal that required Israeli soldiers to leave Gaza without a clear military victory. "That means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel."

It comes as Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, insisted the group’s aim remained to end Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and a complete withdrawal of its troops from the region.

According to reports, the proposed ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, Qatar, US and Israel in Paris on Sunday, will be carried out in three phases. The first will see a six-week halt in fighting, and the release of 35 hostages (mainly elderly, women and sick) in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. The second will focus on male and female soldiers, while the  third stage would release the bodies of dead hostages.

Netanyahu also reiterated the call to shut down the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).

"It's time for the international community and the U.N. itself to understand that UNRWA's mission must be terminated," Netanyahu told visiting U.N. delegates, according to a statement from his office.

"It seeks to preserve the issue of Palestinian refugees. We must replace UNRWA with other U.N. agencies and other aid agencies, if we want to solve the Gaza problem as we plan to do."


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