Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire proposal

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STORY: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected Hamas's proposal for a ceasefire...

... saying at a news conference that total victory in Gaza was within reach...

... adding that success was not a question of years or decades, but a matter of months...

and pledging to destroy the Palestinian Islamist group that held sway in the densely-populated and now war-shattered enclave.

Hamas had proposed a ceasefire of four-and-a-half months, during which the militants would release all the remaining Israeli hostages - or the bodies - of those kidnapped during an Oct. 7 rampage through Israeli communities that left 1200 dead.

In exchange, Hamas demanded Israel withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip, followed by an agreement on an end to the war.

But Israel has repeatedly ruled out anything other than a temporary ceasefire to effect the return of captives, or that leaves Hamas in control of Gaza.

The Hamas offer, the contents of which were first reported by Reuters, is a response to an earlier proposal drawn up by American and Israeli spy chiefs and delivered to Hamas last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Israel responded to the Oct. 7 attack with a devastating air and ground operation inside the Gaza Strip, which Palestinian health officials say has killed more than 27,000 people and displaced most of Gaza's 2.3 million residents.

The onslaught was interrupted but once, when a seven-day truce allowed for the release of more than 100 captives in exchange for scores of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Netanyahu's rejection of the Hamas offer comes after an intense diplomatic effort to reach a negotiated pause in the fighting. The Israeli leader met earlier in the day with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where they discussed the Hamas proposal.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters Netanyahu's rejection showed the Israeli leader intended to pursue conflict in the region.

Another senior Hamas member said the group would send a delegation to Cairo on Thursday to pursue further ceasefire talks with Egypt and Qatar.