Negotiators from Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. pressed for an extension of the cease-fire agreement for Gaza that’s due to end in hours, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that his country ultimately intends to resume warfare to eliminate Hamas and the threat it poses.
“There is no situation in which we do not go back to fighting until the end. This is my policy,” Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday. “The entire Security Cabinet is behind it. The entire government is behind it. The soldiers are behind it. The people are behind it – this is exactly what we will do.”
Israel is pressing for the release of more hostages and would accept an extension of the current truce, a senior Israeli official said, but the country won’t discuss a new cease-fire deal involving the return of more hostages, including men and soldiers, until all civilian women and children are freed.
After an expected release of hostages later on Wednesday, more than two dozen women and children will still be held, the official said. If those hostages are released, Israel is keen to discuss another deal, the official said.
Others involved in discussing what will follow the expiring pause in fighting also staked out firm positions, at least in public.
“A truce is not enough - what is needed is a cease-fire,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
“What is needed is a credible peace and a peace that lasts and that allows the Palestinians and the Israelis to live side-by-side in two states,” he said alongside his counterparts from Arab nations including Egypt and Qatar.
In other developments, Hamas said it released two female detainees with Russian citizenship and will hand them over to representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry. And the Israel Defense Forces said it was evaluating a claim from Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union, that three hostages — a mother and two young children — were killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza. “The IDF is assessing the accuracy of the information” and said Hamas was “responsible for the security of all hostages” regardless.
Hours after Hamas turned over 12 more hostages — 10 Israelis and two Thai citizens — to the Red Cross on Tuesday, President Joe Biden posted a message that appeared to call for an end to the fighting in Gaza.
“To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek,” he said on social media platform X. “We can’t do that.”
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