Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, dashing hopes that a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip might be close, on Wednesday spurned a proposal from Hamas and said that Israel had directed its forces to prepare to operate in a Gazan city that has become a refuge for more than one million Palestinians.
His comments came a day after Hamas delivered a plan to mediators that called for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, abide by a long-term cease-fire and free Palestinians held in Israeli jails in exchange for the release of Israelis being held hostage in Gaza.
“Surrender to the ludicrous demands of Hamas — which we’ve just heard — won’t lead to the liberation of the hostages, and it will only invite another massacre,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a news conference in Jerusalem.
He spoke after meeting with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who was on the third day of a Middle East tour aimed at furthering negotiations to stop the war and ease regional tensions, which have risen since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack prompted the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
Asserting that victory was “within reach” as the war hit the four-month mark, despite growing concerns among Israeli officials that their forces are mired down and their military objectives far from reach, Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel had directed its troops to prepare to advance into Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt.
Word that Israel was preparing a possible expansion of its operation came as American officials said they had killed a senior leader of an Iraqi-based militia they blame for recent attacks on American military personnel. The Pentagon said that a strike in Iraq had killed a commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah, the militia they say was responsible for a drone attack in Jordan last month that killed three American service members and injured more than 40.
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