Netanyahu dismisses cease-fire proposal, angering hostage families


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to dismiss the latest cease-fire proposal backed by President Biden, angering the families of Israeli hostages who accused him of not honoring a key element of the plan: a full Israeli military withdrawal.

In a TV interview Sunday night, Netanyahu said he was open to some aspects of a hostage exchange but not the permanent cease-fire that Biden presented as part of what he described as the Israeli deal last month.

“The intense phase of the war will come to an end very soon,” Netanyahu said. “But that does not mean that the war will be over.” He added: “I am willing to make a partial deal, which will bring some of the people back to us. That is no secret. But we’re committed to continuing the war after the truce.”

Netanyahu’s remarks came as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant visited Washington, where he is meeting with U.S. officials to describe a new phase in the war in Gaza and escalating tensions in the north with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. In a meeting with U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein on Monday, Gallant said that “Phase C” of the war would have impacts on all fronts for Israel, according to a statement from Gallant’s office.

Ahead of his Monday meeting with CIA Director William J. Burns, Gallant said he would discuss obtaining the return of the hostages, which he called “Israel’s primary commitment.”

He is also scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “In areas where we have disagreements, we discuss everything in detail and reach agreements and solve issues. And I am sure this will be true this time as well,” Gallant said of his slate of meetings.

The Hostages Families Forum on Monday condemned Netanyahu’s remarks, saying that ending the conflict in Gaza “without freeing the hostages would be an unprecedented national failure and a departure from the war’s objectives.”

The group said Netanyahu’s plan “abandons” the 120 hostages and “violates the state’s moral obligation to its citizens.” It said that “the responsibility and duty to return all hostages lies with the prime minister.”

The families of the hostages have increasingly clashed with Netanyahu and far-right members of his cabinet over whether it is a priority to reach a deal on the hostages or to continue fighting to destroy Hamas.

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In a statement shared Monday on Telegram, Hamas condemned Netanyahu’s remarks and said his aim for a “partial agreement” would result in the continuation of the war after the recovery of prisoners — which clearly violates Biden’s proposal.

Hamas said its “insistence that any agreement must include a clear confirmation of a permanent cease-fire and a complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip” was a necessary step. While Hamas said it views the proposal “positively,” it has also added conditions that the United States has called unacceptable.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also expressed disappointment with Netanyahu’s comments and their effect on talks to end the conflict.

“The last declaration from Prime Minister Netanyahu confirms that, unhappily, this plan is not going to be implemented,” he said in Luxembourg ahead of a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers.

“I am worried, I am much more worried, every day the crises are spilling over,” he added, citing fears that border clashes between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah could escalate into all-out war. “The risk of this war affecting the south of Lebanon and spilling over is also every day bigger.”

The worry in Europe over the war’s expansion was further underscored when German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at the same event that it was “absolutely important” that a cease-fire is reached in Gaza. She urged Hamas to “finally agree” to a deal. Baerbock, who described the situation at the Lebanon-Israel border as “more than concerning,” said she would be traveling to the Middle East and that “a further escalation would be a catastrophe for all people in the region.”

The aid agency Save the Children also joined the chorus of those calling for an end to the war in Gaza, saying Monday that a cease-fire is “desperately” needed.

More than 20,000 children are estimated to be missing in Gaza, according to a report released by the organization on Monday. The report notes that the young are thought to be “lost, disappeared, detained, buried under the rubble or in mass graves.”

At least 17,000 children are believed to be unaccompanied and separated from their families, the report said. It noted that the figure was made worse by Israel’s attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which “increased the strain” on families and communities inside the enclave.

Current conditions in Gaza make it “nearly impossible” to gather and verify information, the report said. But it estimated that around 4,000 children are probably missing under the rubble and that an unknown number are in mass graves.

Other children, the report said, have been “forcibly disappeared,” including an unknown number who were allegedly detained and transferred out of Gaza — their whereabouts unknown to their loved ones.

After conducting a situational assessment in Rafah, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said the Israeli military is “clearly approaching the point where we can say we have dismantled the Rafah Brigade.” He added that he meant this in the sense that the brigade can “no longer function as a fighting unit,” not in the sense that there are “no more terrorists.”

Here’s what else to know

At the request of their families, the Hostages Families Forum publicized video taken by Hamas militants while abducting three hostages on Oct. 7: Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Or Levy and Eliya Cohen. The videos, also published by the IDF, show armed militants putting bloodied hostages in the back of a pickup truck and driving down a road. “The harsh video is a serious indictment of the neglect that has been going on for 262 days,” the forum said. The hostages remain in Hamas captivity.

The World Health Organization said it helped transfer five children in need of medical care — four cancer patients and one patient with second-degree burns — from al-Ahli Hospital to the Nasser Medical Complex. They will receive care at that hospital in Khan Younis until they can leave Gaza, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet along with a video of the young patients boarding an ambulance. More than 10,000 people need medical evacuations outside Gaza, he said.

Violent clashes broke out in Los Angeles on Sunday as pro-Palestinian protesters attempted to block access to a synagogue in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, according to the mayor, Karen Bass. She described the violence as “abhorrent” in a social media post. She has ordered extra police patrols in the area and at other places of worship in the city. “I want to be clear that Los Angeles will not be a harbor for antisemitism and violence,” she wrote.

Britain’s Labour Party said it would comply with any arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against Netanyahu if the British opposition party wins in elections on July 4. Opposition foreign secretary David Lammy made the remark in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday. Biden has previously described the ICC warrant applications as “outrageous.”

Lebanese officials took journalists and ambassadors to Beirut’s international airport in a bid to refute a report that Hezbollah has weapons caches there. Speaking during the two-hour tour to Rafiq al-Hariri International Airport, Minister of Public Works Ali Hamiya said Lebanon is considering legal action against Britain’s Telegraph newspaper over the report. The paper published an article at the weekend — without a byline and attributed to anonymous “whistleblowers” — that said Hezbollah stored weapons at the airport, sparking panic in Lebanon that the airport could be targeted by Israel.

At least 37,598 ​​people have been killed and 86,032 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 313 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operations in Gaza.

Susannah George contributed to this report.



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