Israel Rejects Hamas's Terms for Ceasefire in Gaza

The proposed ceasefire was swiftly rejected by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinians return to their neighborhood after the Israeli Forces withdrawn from the Shuja'iyya neighborhood district, inspect the destroyed buildings and roads due to Israeli attacks in Gaza City, Gaza on February 06, 202
Palestinians return to their neighborhood after the Israeli Forces withdrawn from the Shuja'iyya neighborhood district, inspect the destroyed buildings and roads due to Israeli attacks in Gaza City, Gaza on February 06, 2024. (Photo by Dawoud Abo Alkas/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly rejected proposed ceasefire terms by Hamas on Wednesday saying only “total victory” in Gaza would do.

"There is no other solution but a complete and final victory," he said.

Earlier, Hamas proposed a three-stage ceasefire including prisoner swaps with Israel to bring an end to the four-month invasion of the Gaza Strip that has killed over 26,000 people and left most of the tiny coastal enclave destroyed. 


The Hamas proposal published in Beirut’s al Akhbar newspaper Wednesday was confirmed as authentic by two senior Hamas officials, who told VICE News the response was to ongoing efforts by Qatar, the U.S., and Egypt to negotiate a long-term cease fire, the release of an estimated 80 Israelis still held by Hamas and its allies, and the negotiated release of Palestinian and Arab Israelis held by the government. 

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and top officials from Egypt and Qatar have been attempting to broker a deal to bring an end to the fighting, which began on Oct. 7 after Hamas attacked Israeli communities and military bases surrounding Gaza, killing about 1200 Israelis and kidnapping about 240. The Israeli military response to the attacks, which have included relentless bombings, the displacement of at least half the strip’s 2.2 million people and the deaths of more than 11,000 children has drawn sharp international condemnation from much of the world. Since the start of the Israel offensive, in October, militants in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria backed by Iran have struck international shipping and American military bases throughout the region, further raising concerns about an expansion of the fighting.

Blinken arrived in Israel Wednesday for meetings about the situation with Netanyahu.

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This outrage, which included South Africa instigating a genocide investigation by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, has left the U.S. scrambling to find an end to the conflict.

Israel and the international community came to an agreement on a proposal last month during talks brokered by Qatar to start a long-term process built around a six week ceasefire and the release of three Palestinian prisoners for each of the remaining hostages. 

Negotiators have been awaiting a response from Hamas to the proposal, a time-consuming process because most of the group’s military leadership is besieged in Gaza, while the group’s political leadership is based in Doha and Lebanon. Concerns about a disconnect between the Hamas political and military wings have bedeviled negotiators since the start of the conflict, but a Hamas official based in Beirut said Wednesday’s statement was approved by the entire group.

“This document exhibits the will and positions of Hamas and the commanders of the Izzidine al Qassam Brigades as they defend the Palestinian people from [Israeli] aggression,” said Abu Ibrahim, a top official for the group based in Lebanon’s Ain Hilweh refugee camp. 


The Hamas statement begins by demanding a relaxation of Israel rules in place from 2022 limiting prayer at the Haram al Sharif, one of Islam’s holiest sites, in Jerusalem's Old City. Limits on attending prayer on Fridays have outraged Palestinians, who consider East Jerusalem illegally occupied by Israel since 1967, and prior to Oct. 7 had led to a series of car and knife attacks on Israelis in the West Bank.

Hamas is also insisting on a complete ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a demand almost certainly to be rejected by Israel, which has vowed to militarily eliminate Hamas. 

“There’s room to talk,” said a regional diplomat, who spoke on the condition of background about the ongoing negotiations. “The Israelis insist they will not stop the military campaign permanently so long as Hamas is present in Gaza. But I think the international community’s concern about the lack of consistency in the positions the Israelis express, with cabinet members continuing to call for ethnic cleansing of the strip, something nobody outside the Kissnet could tolerate.”

The specifics of the Hamas counterproposal break the ceasefire and prison swaps into three separate parts of 45 days each. The first would involve swapping some of the estimated 80 prisoners currently held – Israel officials estimate as many as 50 of the original 240 hostages have died or been killed in captivity – for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails as humanitarian aid and freedom of movement for Palestinians within the strip. The second six-week phase would see the release of more hostages, the start of reconstruction projects to address Gaza’s completely shattered infrastructure. The final phase would include swapping bodies of the dead on both sides and agreeing to a permanent ceasefire.  

“This is a very tricky time because there’s multiple aspects to the Hamas proposal that cannot be accepted by Israel without risking Netanyahu’s right wing coalition,” said the regional diplomat. “There’s a sense that some members of his cabinet prefer no deal at all and will scuttle any serious talks.”

Negotiators are expected to meet in Cairo on Thursday to discuss the Hamas response, said multiple officials.

This story has been updated with Netanyahu’s new statements.