Stalemate in Hostage Release Talks as Hamas Rejects Netanyahu’s Conditions

Hopes for a resolution appear to be fading as the militant group rejects the conditions set by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The hostages, numbering around 130, have become a focal point of tension between the two parties.

Netanyahu, in a video statement, dismissed what he deemed as unacceptable terms presented by Hamas. The conditions reportedly include a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, leaving Hamas in power, and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu firmly rejected these terms, stating, “I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas.”

“Hamas is demanding, in exchange for the release of our hostages, the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza,” Netanyahu said in a video statement. He said Hamas was also demanding a release of militants who killed some 1,200 people in October. Israel has said it aims to destroy Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and EU. 

“Were we to agree to this, our soldiers would have fallen in vain and the next Oct. 7 would be only a question of time,” he said. Israel is obliged to return all the hostages home but “the conditions being proposed by Hamas underscore a simple point – there is no substitute for victory. Only total victory will ensure the elimination of Hamas and the return of all our hostages,” he said.

The rejection by Hamas has led to a pessimistic outlook, with a senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, indicating that Netanyahu’s refusal to end the military offensive in Gaza makes the return of hostages “impossible.” The demands put forth by Hamas emphasize the need for a ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Families of the hostages have intensified their protests, setting up tents outside Netanyahu’s residence and demanding a deal for the return of their loved ones. The pressure on Netanyahu to secure the release has been steadily mounting, with the families expressing concerns over the ongoing crisis and urging a swift resolution.

Efforts by the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar to facilitate a diplomatic process, involving a phased approach starting with the release of hostages, have yet to yield concrete results. The situation remains complex, with no official comments from either Hamas or Israeli officials regarding these proposed diplomatic initiatives.

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