Netanyahu promotes an “initiative” to release hostages in Gaza as pressure mounts

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Israel has offered a two-month ceasefire to Hamas as part of a potential hostage deal, Axios reported Monday, citing two unnamed Israeli officials.

Axios correspondent Barak Ravid, also a CNN analyst, wrote that this would be “the longest ceasefire Israel has offered to Hamas since the beginning of the war.”

This proposal comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas's call to end the Gaza war in exchange for the release of the hostages held there, at a time when he faces increasing popular pressure to return the prisoners to their homeland.

In order to release the rest HostagesNetanyahu said that Hamas demands an end to the war, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. “I am working on this around the clock. But to be clear: I categorically reject the conditions for the surrender of Hamas’ monsters,” he said in a statement on Sunday, adding that agreeing to the conditions conflicts with Israel’s security.

“If we agree to this, our soldiers will have fallen in vain. “If we agree to this, we will not be able to guarantee the security of our citizens,” the Prime Minister said.

Since then, Netanyahu has told the families of remaining Israeli hostages in Gaza that Israel has an “initiative” to secure the release of the kidnapped — but that there is no “real proposal” from Hamas that would advance their freedom, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. .

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According to the Axios report, the latest Israeli proposal stipulates the release of all hostages and the bodies of the remaining hostages in multiple stages, in exchange for the release of Palestinian detainees imprisoned in Israel.

This will also see Israel withdraw its forces from major population centers and allow “the gradual return of Palestinian civilians to Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip.”

Of the 253 hostages Israel says Hamas took on October 7, Israel believes 132 remain in Gaza, and 104 of them are believed to be alive.

Ohad Zweigenberg/AFP

Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip participated in a protest to demand their release outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem on Sunday.

the Wall Street Journal report She stated that the United States, Egypt and Qatar want Israel to join a new phase of talks with Hamas, which will begin with the release of the hostages and lead to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

These developments come Amid deepening divisions Inside Israel's war cabinet over whether repatriation of hostages should be prioritized over defeating Hamas, and as thousands protested over the weekend in Tel Aviv against Netanyahu's handling of the war.

Defense Minister Gadi Eisenkot indicated last week that the war's main goal of defeating Hamas was unrealistic and called for elections to be held within months. Eisenkot also said the government has failed to achieve what he says should be its top priority: securing the release of the hostages.

Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from the Israeli public to ensure the release of prisoners in Gaza. On Monday, more than a dozen people, including the hostages' families, forced their way into a meeting held by the Israeli parliament's Finance Committee. The demonstrators raised banners that read: “You will not sit here while they die over there.”

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A video clip of the scene showed security personnel trying to remove the demonstrators amid screaming and shoving.

“It can't go on like this. You better know. It can't go on like this. You won't sit here while our children die over there,” one protester shouted. There were no reports of arrests inside the parliament known as the Knesset.

Israeli police said that in a separate demonstration, dozens of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the Knesset, “in violation of public order.” This protest called for immediate elections, and included some of the families of those killed on October 7.

After some refused to leave, a police officer issued a dispersal order, according to a statement by the Israeli police.

An opinion poll published by CNN's Israeli Channel 13 on Monday showed that 35% of Israelis would support a deal that includes the release of all hostages from Gaza in exchange for stopping the war and releasing all Hamas detainees in Israel. Nearly half (46%) said they would oppose such a deal.

A small majority (53%) said that Netanyahu's personal interests were the main consideration driving his behavior in the war, while a third (33%) said that the national interest was the main consideration for him.

It has been more than three months since Israel launched its war against Hamas, which came in response to the group's brutal attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza rose On Sunday it exceeded 25,000According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip.

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CNN cannot independently verify these numbers.

Leo Correa/AFP

Israeli soldiers move on armored personnel carriers near the Israel-Gaza border as smoke rises into the sky in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel on Sunday.

Netanyahu reiterated his rejection of future Palestinian sovereignty over the occupied territories on Saturday after talks with US President Joe Biden about the future of Gaza. The White House is pressuring Israel to recognize the need for the Palestinians to establish an independent state in the areas Israel occupied in the 1967 war.

“I will not give up full Israeli security control over all the lands west of Jordan — this is inconsistent with a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said in a Saturday post on the X website.

The prime minister's public rejection of Palestinian statehood has put him at odds with Israel's most powerful ally, which has long called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

several European foreign ministers They also joined the chorus of criticism directed at Netanyahu over Israel's opposition to the two-state solution. Josep BorrellThe European Union's foreign policy chief said Monday that Israel's opposition to a two-state solution is “unacceptable” and Israel cannot expect countries to abandon the issue.

This story has been updated.

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