World

Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s war against Hamas will not stop after ceasefire

Fighting in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh week, has shifted to the Jabaliya refugee camp (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Fighting in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh week, has shifted to the Jabaliya refugee camp (AP Photo/Leo Correa) Fighting in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh week, has shifted to the Jabaliya refugee camp (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israel and Hamas on Tuesday appeared close to a deal to temporarily halt their devastating six-week war for dozens of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip to be freed in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

But as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Cabinet for a vote, he vowed to resume the Israeli offensive against Hamas as soon as the truce ends.

Israel Palestinians Netanyahu Blame Game
Israel Palestinians Netanyahu Blame Game Benjamin Netanyahu met with troops before a meeting of his war cabinet (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, Pool, File)

“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he said. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”

The Israeli Cabinet was expected to vote on a plan that would halt Israel’s offensive in Gaza for several days in exchange for the release of about 50 of the 240 hostages held by Hamas.

Israel has vowed to continue the war until it destroys Hamas’ military capabilities and returns all hostages.

Hamas predicted a Qatari-mediated deal could be reached in “the coming hours”.

Mr Netanyahu acknowledged that the Cabinet faced a tough decision, but supporting the ceasefire was the right thing to do.

The prime minister appeared to have enough support to pass the measure, despite opposition from some hard-line ministers.

Mr Netanyahu said that during the lull, intelligence efforts will be maintained, allowing the army to prepare for the next stages of battle. He said the battle would continue until “Gaza will not threaten Israel”.

The comments came as Israel and Hamas appeared close to a deal to temporarily halt their devastating six-week war so that dozens of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip could be freed in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians A woman plasters photos of Israelis missing and held captive in Gaza as officials are said to be considering a deal to secure the release of some hostages (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Hamas predicted a Qatari-mediated deal could be reached in “the coming hours”, while Mr Netanyahu was convening top decision-makers to discuss the matter.

“We are advancing,” the prime minister told troops during a visit earlier Tuesday to a training base. “I hope there will be good news soon.”

The announcement came as Israeli troops battled Palestinian militants in an urban refugee camp in northern Gaza and around hospitals overcrowded with patients and sheltering families.

Mr Netanyahu’s office said the special three-member War Cabinet met on Tuesday and would be followed by meetings of his Security Cabinet, a forum of senior security officials, and the full Cabinet.

There was no word on whether a vote would take place and details of a deal were not released.

Israel Palestinians
Israel Palestinians Fighting in the Gaza Strip, now in its seventh week, has shifted to the Jabaliya refugee camp (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israeli media reported that an agreement would include a five-day halt in Israel’s offensive in Gaza and the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas in exchange for some 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV said the first releases would take place Thursday or Friday and continue for several days.

Talks have repeatedly stalled. But even if a deal is reached, it would not mean an end to the war, which erupted on Oct. 7 after Hamas militants stormed across the border into southern Israel and killed at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapped some 240 others.