Netanyahu asserts no agreement has been reached on Gaza cease-fire, maintains confidence in Rafah operation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that a potential Gaza cease-fire and hostage swap have not been finalized yet.

During an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation,” the speaker mentioned that there is ongoing dialogue between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and Qatar regarding a cease-fire. Although the exact duration of the cease-fire is uncertain, all parties involved are actively working towards a resolution.

“We desire it. I personally desire it. Our goal is to free the remaining hostages. We have already successfully rescued half of them, and I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of Israel and the United States in ensuring the return of the remaining hostages. As for whether we will achieve this, I cannot provide a definitive answer,” he remarked.

According to a senior Egyptian official, the Associated Press reported that the draft deal entails the release of approximately 40 women and older hostages held in Gaza. In exchange, Israel would release up to 300 Palestinian prisoners, with the majority being women, minors, and older individuals.

According to the AP, if the proposed six-week ceasefire is implemented, it would enable the entry of numerous aid trucks into Gaza on a daily basis. This includes the northern part of the besieged territory. Negotiators aim to reach an agreement before the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin around March 10.

During an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan revealed that the four Middle East nations have reached an understanding on the fundamental elements of a hostage deal and a temporary cease-fire. While Sullivan did not delve into the specifics, he emphasized that they have agreed upon the basic contours of these agreements.

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Qatar and Egypt are currently engaging in indirect discussions with Hamas in order to achieve the release of the hostages. This ongoing effort is crucial, as emphasized by the statement, “There will have to be indirect discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas because ultimately they will have to agree to release the hostages.”

Israeli officials held a meeting on Saturday night following the recent round of negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu labeled Hamas’ initial demands as “crazy” and expressed determination for a “total victory” over the militant group in Gaza.

“You can only achieve victory by eradicating Hamas,” Netanyahu asserted, emphasizing that the ongoing operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah are nearing completion within a matter of weeks, not months. He further stated, “Should a deal be reached, there might be a slight delay, but in the absence of an agreement, we will proceed with our plans regardless.”

During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Sullivan stated that President Joe Biden has not received a briefing on Israel’s Rafah plan. However, he emphasized the importance of having a clear and feasible plan to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians in the region. Sullivan expressed concern that a major military operation should not proceed in Rafah unless there is a comprehensive strategy in place to protect and support the affected population.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, emphasized the alignment between Israel and the US regarding the strategy to evacuate the Palestinian citizens of Rafah and eliminate Hamas’ remaining presence in the area.

The Prime Minister expressed confidence in the success of the operation. He stated, “Initially, we were given warnings by our closest allies that turned out to be false. They claimed that entering the ground war would lead to significant complications. They said we couldn’t enter Gaza City or go into the tunnels, and that it would result in a bloodbath. However, none of these predictions proved to be accurate.”

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According to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, since the war began after Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel on October 7th, which resulted in over 1,150 deaths, there have been a total of 29,514 Palestinian casualties in Israel’s offensive. Out of these casualties, nearly 70,000 individuals have been wounded. Shockingly, two-thirds of those killed were women and children. It is important to note that the ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in their count.

According to the AP, Israel claims to have eliminated more than 10,000 Hamas fighters. However, no evidence has been provided to support this assertion.

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