Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas's proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
"Caving into the delusional demands of Hamas will result in another massacre," said Netanyahu at a press conference.
Netanyahu's remarks came hours after Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza, presented a set of terms in response to a ceasefire proposal brokered by Qatar.
It included the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners and the reconstruction of Gaza, which has been devastated by the Israeli strikes. Hamas also seeks a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to the ongoing war, proposing a ceasefire plan consisting of three phases, each lasting 45 days.
Netanyahu repeated his stance that Israel will continue the war until "a total victory" over Hamas. "Tonight, I came to tell you one thing: We are on the way to a total victory. Victory is within reach. It's not a matter of years but of months," said Netanyahu.
According to the Israeli prime minister, since Oct. 7, 2023, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed or wounded 20,000 militants in Gaza, which constitute "more than half of the Hamas forces."
"We instructed the IDF, which is now in Khan Younis, the last stronghold of Hamas, to prepare to operate in Rafah as well," he said.
Rafah is Gaza's southernmost city, a zone previously designated as a safe zone by the Israeli army and to which more than half of Gaza's over 2 million population had fled.
Netanyahu said he told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during their meeting in Jerusalem earlier on Wednesday, that after Hamas is "eliminated," Gaza should be demilitarized to ensure it will not pose a security threat to Israel.
"It means that Israel will stay in Gaza," he said.
Netanyahu also repeated his call to close the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Last week, Israel accused 12 UNRWA employees of taking part in a fierce onslaught by Hamas on southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, 2023, leading to at least 17 countries suspending UNRWA funding.
The Israel-Hamas conflict has so far claimed the lives of 27,708 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry on Wednesday.
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