Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected Hamas' terms for a cease-fire and hostage-release agreement, calling them "delusional," a position that complicates efforts to strike a deal between the sides.
Netanyahu vowed to press ahead with Israel's war against Hamas, now in its fifth month, until achieving "absolute victory."
Netanyahu made the comments shortly after meeting the visiting U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who has been traveling the region in hopes of securing a cease-fire 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. He also said that Israel is the "only power" capable of guaranteeing security in the long term.
Earlier, Blinken said that "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 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 stipulates 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' 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.
U.S. President Joe Biden said Hamas' 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, leveled entire neighborhoods, 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 U.S. and Israeli targets, in solidarity with the Palestinians, drawing reprisals as the risk of a wider conflict grows.
Israel remains deeply shaken by the Oct. 7 attack in which Hamas militants burst through the country's vaunted defenses 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.
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