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Hamas says there's 'no chance' the remaining hostages will be freed after Benjamin Netanyahu rejects ceasefire deal
22 January 2024, 12:01
Hamas has ruled out releasing the remaining hostages it took from Israel in the October 7 attacks after Benjamin Netanyahu turned down a ceasefire deal.
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Mr Netanyahu said: "In exchange for the release of our hostages, Hamas demands the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the murderers and rapists.
"And leaving Hamas intact.
"I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas."
Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, said in response that Israel refusing to accept the conditions "means there is no chance for the return of the captives."
Returning the remaining Israeli hostages is one of the main priorities for Israel in its war with Hamas. Mr Netanyahu has come under pressure from the US to end the conflict in Gaza.
US national security council spokesman John Kirby said the White House had been speaking to Israel "about a transition to low-intensity operations" in Gaza.
He said: "We believe it's the right time for that transition. And we're talking to them about doing that."
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Mr Netanyahu said on Thursday that his government opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.
The Israeli prime minister said that his country must have security control over all land west of the river Jordan, including Gaza, to prevent an atrocity like the October 7 massacre taking place again.
He told reporters on Thursday: "This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty.
"What to do? I tell this truth to our American friends, and I also stopped the attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel's security."
Mr Netanyahu also vowed to press on with the war in Gaza "until complete victory", including the total destruction of Hamas and the return of all surviving hostages still held captive.
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The current war between Israel and Hamas, the fifth and by far deadliest, began when Palestinian militants broke through Israel's defences and rampaged through several nearby communities, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, taking around 250 people hostage and shattering Israelis' sense of security.
Israel's offensive has killed at least 25,105 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded more than 60,000, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says around two-thirds of those killed were women and children.
The Israeli military says it has killed around 9,000 militants, without providing evidence, and blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because it positions fighters, tunnels and other militant infrastructure in dense residential areas.
Some 85% of Gaza's population of 2.3 million have fled their homes, seeking elusive shelter in the south as Israel continues to strike all parts of the besieged enclave.