Image Credit: Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images

Netanyahu Rejects Hamas Truce and Vows to Press Ahead as Ceasefire Talks Increase

As negotiations in Cairo enter their second day, mediators have thus far failed to make progress as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with another ground offensive in the Gaza strip. 

It is not the first time that Israeli authorities reject calls for a negotiated deal, as Netanyahu had rejected one as recently as last week, choosing instead to escalate the attacks on Gazans’ last refuge: the Rafah area.

Previously, Hamas submitted a three-stage peace plan aiming to free Israeli captives and Palestinian prisoners, deeming the plan “reasonable and realistic” in response to proposals from Qatari and Egyptian mediators earlier in the month. 

These mediators have been engaged in high-level diplomatic negotiations with Israel and the US, aiming to bring an end to the war. According to the plan, each stage of the truce would last for 45 days.

However, Netanyahu cautioned against accepting Hamas’s “bizarre demands,” stating it wouldn’t ensure the return of hostages and “it will only invite another massacre.”

With the invasion of Rafah seemingly more imminent and the Holy Month of Ramadan approaching, reports have indicated that international actors has stressed on the need to secure a ceasefire.

In November’s weeklong truce, 105 hostages were released for 240 Palestinian prisoners. Israel believes 132 hostages from the October 7 attacks remain in Gaza, with 29 presumed dead.

Heated Exchanges Between US and Israeli Authorities

Conversations between United States President Joe Biden and Netanyahu have reportedly turned very sour, with sources suggesting Biden’s use of explicit language and insults against the Israeli Prime Minister.

During his fifth Middle East tour since the war erupted, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke in Tel Aviv after a meeting with Netanyahu concerning the Gaza truce. He stated that he perceives “space for an agreement to be reached” and emphasized that he had cautioned the Israeli leader against actions and rhetoric that “inflame tensions.” 

However, he noted that there is “a lot of work to be done.”

Blinken also emphasized the need for more aid to Gaza’s 2.4 million people facing a crippling siege and severe shortages. He urged Israel not to treat Palestinians in a dehumanizing manner, drawing attention to the similar dehumanization tactics employed by Hamas against Israelis on October 7.

“The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of October 7, and the families in Gaza whose survival depends on deliveries of aid from Israel are just like our families,” Blinken said at the news conference on Wednesday.

On Thursday Blinken endeavored to facilitate a deal for the release of Gaza hostages in discussions with Israeli moderates as he concluded his Middle East tour without securing a pause in the ongoing conflict.

Concurrently with a changing discourse from many other Western states, all those apparent efforts have failed to pressure Israeli forces to de-escalate or tone the bombing down.

Rafah in the crosshairs

“We are on the path to total victory. Victory is within reach,” Netanyahu claimed last week at a televised press briefing, adding that triumph was months away. “Only total victory will allow us to restore security in Israel, both in the north and in the south.”

For over a week, Israeli forces have intensified their bombing campaigns on Rafah, and have also widened their scope of operations in Lebanon, killing 11 civilians on Wednesday alone. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, on his part, claimed that fighting won’t stop until the onslaught on Gaza ceases.

UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed alarm at reports indicating Israeli forces might advance into Rafah, home to over half of Gaza’s population. He warned that such a move would significantly exacerbate the existing humanitarian crisis, leading to untold regional consequences.

So far, the onslaught on Gaza by Israeli forces has killed over 28,775 individuals, including more than 12,300 children. In the West Bank, Israeli forces killed at least 395 people, including more than 105 children. In Lebanon, Israeli attacks have killed at least 41 civilians and continue to target civilian areas.

As matters stand, Israeli authorities have shown no signs of planning a ceasefire, let alone a de-escalation, putting the lives of millions in the region in grave danger amidst the biggest genocidal campaign in recent history.