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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: Netanyahu rejects cease-fire counteroffer

Published February 7, 2024last updated February 7, 2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed that "absolute victory" in Gaza is near and described Hamas' terms in a counterproposal for a cease-fire as "delusional." DW has the latest.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) shakes hand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) in West Jerusalem on February 07, 2024.
Netanyahu gave a lengthy press conference on the proposal soon after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony BlinkenImage: GPO/Anadolu/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Israel's PM says the terms for a cease-fire put forward by Hamas are not acceptable
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel for cease-fire talks
  • The US House of Representatives has blocked a $17.6 billion Israel aid bill
  • President Biden was critical of the Republican-submitted bill which he said was intended to undermine a larger aid bill including aid for Ukraine


Skip next section Blinken: Hamas counteroffer 'creates space for an agreement'
February 7, 2024

Blinken: Hamas counteroffer 'creates space for an agreement'

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has given his delayed press conference in Tel Aviv during his visit to Israel. 

He said that, while there were "some clear non-starters" in a Hamas response to a cease-fire proposal initially put forward by Israel and mediators, it, nevertheless, "creates space" to come to an agreement acceptable to both sides.

He was speaking soon after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had labeled some of Hamas' terms for a pause in fighting "delusional."

"While there are some clear non-starters in Hamas' response, we do think it creates space for an agreement to be reached, and we will work at that relentlessly," Blinken said, later adding during questions from reporters that he presumed Netanyahu's comments referred more to the "non-starters" than to other parts of the proposal.

Blinken praised Israel for taking various steps aimed at limiting civilian suffering, saying: "As a result, today, more assistance is moving into Gaza from more places than at any time since October 7." 

"And yet, as I said to the prime minister and other Israeli officials, the daily toll that this military operation is taking on innocent civilians remains too high," he said. 

He also said he was aware that, in Hamas, Israel was facing "an enemy that would never hold itself to such standards," and said this was one of the reasons the US had been so supportive of Israel. The United States and Israel, along with Germany and several other countries, designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. 

Blinken said that during his trip, he had discussed with various stakeholders "both the substance and the sequence" of a path towards a so-called two-state solution and what steps all involved would need to take to progress on the long-stalled proposal.

Skip next section Netanyahu rejects Hamas cease-fire counteroffer, claims Gaza victory 'within reach'
February 7, 2024

Netanyahu rejects Hamas cease-fire counteroffer, claims Gaza victory 'within reach'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a news conference Wednesday that  "surrendering" to Hamas' "delusional" counteroffer listing its terms for a cease-fire in Gaza would not lead to freeing hostages but would "just invite another massacre." 

Earlier Wednesday, the militant group had responded to a cease-fire proposal first put forward by Israel and mediators Egypt and Qatar. Included in its conditions was a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Netanyahu said that Israel's military operation in Gaza would continue until Hamas was "eliminated."

"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."

His statements come as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel trying to help broker a cease-fire of some kind. 

Blinken had originally been scheduled to address the media on Wednesday evening, around the time that Netanyahu made his televised announcement, but that appointment is currently more than an hour behind schedule.

Hamas responds to cease-fire proposal

Skip next section Blinken: Israel, US, looking 'intensely' into possible truce deal
February 7, 2024

Blinken: Israel, US, looking 'intensely' into possible truce deal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli President Isaac Herzog sat next to one another during talks in Jerusalem. February 7, 2024.
Blinken met with Israeli Preisdent Isaac Herzog on Thursday afternoonImage: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/picture alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he met Israeli President Isaac Herzog that "a lot of work" still needed to be done on a new cease-fire or hostage release proposal. He also pleaded for more aid to Gaza. 

Blinken had a closed-door meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Wednesday. His trip to Israel comes a day after talks in Qatar, which has been a key mediator since the Israel-Hamas war started in Gaza. 

Hamas has issued a counteroffer after spending several days evaluating a proposal first put forward by Israel and mediators Egypt and Qatar.

"We're looking at it intensely, as is, I know, the government of Israel," Blinken said.

"There's a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work, and hopefully being able to resume the release of hostages that was interrupted," he said.

Several of the conditions suggested by Hamas, most notably a complete Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza, are unlikely to meet Israeli approval.

Skip next section Israel claims it found tunnel where Hamas kept 12 hostages
February 7, 2024

Israel claims it found tunnel where Hamas kept 12 hostages

The Israeli military said its forces located and destroyed a tunnel that was allegedly used by Hamas to hold hostages in Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza that has been the focus of Israel's offensive in recent weeks. 

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the "strategic underground tunnel" stretched more than 1 kilometer (around 0.6 miles) and had more than 16 rooms. It was used "to hide high-ranking members of the Hamas terrorist organization and to hold hostages," the IDF added.

The military said the tunnel was built "under the heart of a civilian area" and was part of an "intricate and interconnected underground labyrinth."

About 12 hostages were held at the tunnel at different times, including three who had been returned to Israel, the military said.

In a video published by the IDF, footage apparently from that abandoned tunnel shows a kitchen, a plastic bed and a separate bathroom, as well as what seems to be a makeshift prison cell with a metal gate.

A military officer in the video also shows hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades the IDF said were found in the tunnel. 

Israel has previously identified several tunnels in residential areas of Gaza, some running under or near schools, mosques and hospitals, that it believes have been used by Hamas to shield its fighters. 

The Islamist militant group ruling Gaza is said to have built hundreds of kilometers of tunnels; Israel says their destruction is a major objective of its ground offensive in Gaza.

Israel reveals images of 'Hamas tunnel network'

Skip next section France pays tribute to October 7 victims
February 7, 2024

France pays tribute to October 7 victims

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony at the Invalides monument
Macron called the Hamas terror attack 'barbarism... which is fed by antisemitism and propagates it'Image: Gonzalo Fuentes/AP Photo/picture alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a ceremony in tribute to 42 French citizens who died in the Hamas October 7 terror attacks and three hostages who are believed to be still held by the Islamist militant group in Gaza. 

Four hostages who hold French citizenship have been previously released.

During the ceremony, Macron described the attack on Israel as the "biggest antisemitic massacre of our century" and vowed not to give in to "rampant and uninhibited antisemitism."

Around 1,200 people were killed in the attack. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by several countries, also took more than 250 hostages, around half of whom have since been released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Photographs of the victims were displayed in the Invalides' military memorial courtyard in central Paris as part of the ceremony. The Republican Guard's orchestra was set to play the "Kaddish" by French composer Maurice Ravel, written in 1914 based on a traditional Hebrew melody. 

Photos of French victims of the October 7 Hamas terror attack are held during a ceremony in Paris
The ceremony was held at the Invalides monument in central Paris Image: Thibault Camus/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section US Secretary of State Blinken in Israel
Published February 7, 2024last updated February 7, 2024

US Secretary of State Blinken in Israel

The United States' top diplomat, Antony Blinken, arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv late on Tuesday night.

Blinken has already held talks in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar during what is his fifth crisis tour of the Middle East.

On Wednesday, he is set to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog and senior defense officials in an attempt to seal a truce in the four-month-old Gaza war.

His visit comes as Hamas, the Islamist militant group ruling Gaza, has responded to a cease-fire proposal from Israel in coordination with Qatar and Egypt with a counteroffer of its own, which Blinken is expected to discuss with Israeli officials. 

According to reports, Hamas' counterproposal lays out a three-phase plan to unfold over more than four months, seeing the release of the remaining Israeli hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, and ultimately an end to the war. 

Hamas' plan, however, would effectively allow Hamas to remain in power in Gaza and possibly rebuild its military capabilities, which Israel strongly rejects. 

Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, the EU and several Arab states. 

Blinken meets Qatari officials

Skip next section Saudi Arabia: Israel ties conditional on independent Palestinian state
February 7, 2024

Saudi Arabia: Israel ties conditional on independent Palestinian state

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would not establish ties with Israel until an independent Palestinian state "is recognized." 

This was in response to remarks made by White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on "ongoing" Saudi-Israeli normalization.

Kirby had told reporters on Tuesday that he "received positive feedback from both sides that they're willing to continue to have those discussions."

"The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," the statement read. 

Saudi Arabia added that Israeli "aggression" in Gaza must also stop, and all Israeli forces must withdraw from the enclave. 

Saudi Arabia has never recognized the state of Israel and was not part of the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords, in which Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco established formal ties with Israel. 

Amid war, Israel's warming ties with Saudi Arabia on hold

Skip next section Reports: Hamas seeks cease-fire to end war
February 7, 2024

Reports: Hamas seeks cease-fire to end war

Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) news agencies reported, citing a draft document, that the Islamist militant group Hamas has proposed a cease-fire in Gaza for four-and-a-half months, leading to an end to the war.

Israel launched the war in Gaza in response to the Hamas' terror attacks on October 7. The group, which rules Gaza, is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and several other countries. 

According to the reports, Hamas' proposal envisions three phases lasting 45 days each, with the militants offering to release the remaining Israeli hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The plan, which is reportedly a counterproposal in response to Qatari and Egyptian mediators, also includes the beginning of the reconstruction of Gaza, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the enclave and the exchange of bodies and remains. 

Hamas responds to cease-fire proposal

On Tuesday, Qatar's prime minister said that Hamas' response to the mediators' proposal was "generally positive," but the militant group plans to remain in power in Gaza — a scenario that Israel rejects.

US President Joe Biden had said that Hamas' demands were "a little over the top" but that negotiations will go on. 

Skip next section US lawmakers reject $17.6 billion Israel aid bill
February 7, 2024

US lawmakers reject $17.6 billion Israel aid bill

US lawmakers has rejected a standalone Israel aid bill which had been denounced by critics as a "cynical" bid to thwart a cross-party border security and foreign assistance package that would include aid for Ukraine.

Republicans in the House of Representatives had tabled the vote as an alternative to the Democrat-led bipartisan bill Sunday pairing aid for both Israel and Ukraine worth $118 billion (€109.63 billion).

But 167 Democrats voted no after President Joe Biden had threatened to wield his veto. The standalone bill was also opposed by 14 Republicans.

House Democratic leaders called the bill a "nakedly obvious and cynical attempt" to undermine the larger package, which ties the Israel cash to $60 billion of aid for Ukraine and $20 billion for US border security, but is currently deadlocked in Congress.

The vote was 250 to 180, falling short because it was introduced under a procedure requiring a two-thirds majority.

Families worst hit by Gaza food shortages