Hamas says no hostage negotiations unless fighting in Gaza stops; Israel: No chance

Dec 21, 2023 | Hostages, Read Now

Israel on Thursday firmly rejected a Hamas demand to permanently halt fighting before releasing any more hostages being held by terrorists in Gaza, as talks in Cairo for a truce deal appeared to make little progress.

A Hamas official told AFP that “a total ceasefire and a retreat of the Israeli occupation army from the Gaza Strip are a precondition for any serious negotiation” on a hostage-prisoner swap.

Israel has repeatedly rejected any such proposition, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated on Thursday the longstanding position in no uncertain terms: “We are fighting until victory. We will not stop the war until we achieve all its goals — completing the destruction of Hamas, and releasing all of our hostages.”

Netanyahu added that he was giving Hamas a “very simple choice: surrender or die. They do not have and will not have any other option.”

He added that “after we destroy Hamas, I will work with all my power to ensure that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel” — an apparent indication that he does not intend to step down or publicly take responsibility for the failures that enabled Hamas’s October 7 massacres.

[The Times of Israel Report continues]

On Tuesday, Herzog told a gathering of foreign diplomats that “Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages. And the responsibility lies fully with [Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya] Sinwar and the leadership of Hamas.”

[The Times of Israel Report continues]

The White House’s National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, said Wednesday that the talks are “very serious discussions and negotiations, and we hope that they lead somewhere.” He made the comment to reporters aboard Air Force One while traveling with US President Joe Biden.

Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups took around 240 hostages into Gaza on October 7 during their murderous rampage through southern Israel, in which 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed. In response, Israel launched a military campaign against the terror group in the Strip, beginning its ground offensive in late October.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims at least 20,000 people in the Strip have been killed since the start of the war, a figure that cannot be independently verified and includes those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches. Israeli officials have said over 7,000 of those killed in Gaza are Hamas operatives. The IDF says 137 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive so far.

View this Times of Israel Report from December 21st