Netanyahu again rejects ceasefire without hostages release
Palestinian Territories (AFP)— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again rejected the prospect of a ceasefire in Gaza on Wednesday, amid reports of negotiations for a temporary truce with Hamas.
A source close to Hamas earlier said talks were underway for the release of a dozen hostages held by the Islamists, including six Americans, in return for a three-day ceasefire in Gaza.
“I’d like to put to rest all kinds of false rumours we’re hearing from all kinds of directions, and reiterate one clear thing: there will be no ceasefire without the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu said.
The source close to Hamas had said the pause in fighting was being brokered “to enable Egypt an extended (period of time) to deliver humanitarian aid” and let Hamas release the 12 hostages.
“There’s disagreement around the time period and around the north (of the Gaza Strip), which is witnessing extensive combat operations,” the source said.
Earlier Wednesday, a separate source briefed on the talks said Qatar was mediating negotiations in coordination with the US to free “10-15 hostages in exchange for a one- to two-day ceasefire”.
Fighting has raged in Gaza for over a month following Hamas’ shock October 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took 239 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.
In Gaza, 10,569 people, also mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military campaign to destroy Hamas, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory has said.
Qatar has been engaged in intense diplomacy to secure the release of those held by Hamas, negotiating the handover of four hostages — two Israelis and two Americans — in recent weeks.
Following reports on the latest negotiations, the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum said it welcomed “the return of each and every hostage”.
However, “any move toward a ceasefire should include the release of all hostages from Gaza”, the group said in a statement.
Qatar, which hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East, is also home to the political office of Hamas and is the main residence of its self-exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh.
The wealthy Gulf emirate has been a fierce supporter of the Palestinian cause and has open channels of communication with Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza.
Amid repeated calls for a ceasefire, Qatar has lamented the escalating violence visited on Gaza and its 2.4 million inhabitants, saying Israeli bombing undermines mediation efforts and de-escalation.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the Gulf state was “determined to continue its mediation”, despite difficulties “caused by the actions of the Israeli occupation”.
The G7 grouping of economically advanced nations called on Wednesday for “humanitarian pauses and corridors” in the conflict, but refrained from calling for a ceasefire, during talks in Japan.