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Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire demands saying war will go on until 'absolute victory'

Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire demands saying war will go on until 'absolute victory'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire and hostage-release agreement, vowing to press ahead with Israel's military offensive in Gaza until achieving "absolute victory."

Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with Israel's war against Hamas, which is now in its fifth month, and labelled Hamas’s requests as "delusional”.

The Prime Minister made the comments on Wednesday shortly after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been travelling the region hoping to secure a ceasefire agreement.

"Surrendering to Hamas' delusional demands that we heard now not only won't lead to freeing the captives, it will just invite another massacre," Netanyahu said in a nationally televised evening news conference.

"We are on the way to an absolute victory," Netanyahu said, adding that the operation would last months, not years. "There is no other solution."

He ruled out any arrangement that leaves Hamas in full or partial control of Gaza, adding that Israel is the "only power" capable of guaranteeing security in the long term.

Earlier, Blinken said "a lot of work" remains to bridge the gap between Israel and Hamas on terms for any deal. He was expected to hold his own news conference later on Wednesday.

Hamas laid out a detailed, three-phase plan to unfold over four and a half months, responding to a proposal drawn up by the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt.

The plan sets out that all hostages would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, including senior militants, and an end to the war.

Israel has made destroying Hamas's governing and military abilities one of its wartime objectives, and Hamas' proposal would effectively leave it in power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities.

US President Joe Biden said Hamas's demands are "a little over the top" but that negotiations will continue.

The deadliest round of fighting in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has killed over 27,000 Palestinians, levelled entire neighbourhoods, driven the vast majority of Gaza's population from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population to starvation.

Iran-backed militant groups across the region have conducted attacks, mostly on US and Israeli targets, in solidarity with the Palestinians, drawing reprisals as the risk of a wider conflict grows.

Israel remains deeply shaken by the October 7 attack in which Hamas militants burst through the country's defences and rampaged across southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting some 250, around half of whom remain in captivity in Gaza.

Blinken, who is on his fifth visit to the region since the war broke out, is trying to advance the cease-fire talks while pushing for a larger postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in return for a "clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state."

But the increasingly unpopular Netanyahu is opposed to Palestinian statehood, and his hawkish governing coalition could collapse if he is seen as making too many concessions.

"There's a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work," Blinken told Israel's ceremonial president, Isaac Herzog.