Hamas rejects ceasefire proposal; Benjamin Netanyahu pressure builds


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Israel said it was keen to reach a prisoners-for-hostages deal, by which it would free some Palestinians jailed in its prisons in return for the hostages in Gaza, but it wasn’t ready to end the military offensive before invading Rafah.

Hamas wants any agreement to secure an end to Israeli military offensive, get Israeli forces out of Gaza and allow the displaced to return to their homes across the enclave.

Rafah is the last refuge for Palestinian civilians displaced by relentless Israeli bombardments that have flattened their home neighbourhoods. It is also the last significant redoubt of Hamas combat units, Israel says.

More than a million people are crammed into the southern city in desperate conditions, short of food, water and shelter, and foreign governments and organisations have urged Israel against storming Rafah for fears of a bloodbath.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he told Netanyahu late last week of Australia’s concern about a ground invasion of Rafah.

“The consequences that would be there for the civilian population who, of course, were told in Gaza to go south from the north to the centre, were then told to go to the centre to the south, and are now confronting a potential ground invasion there,” he said.

Palestinians inspect the damage following Israeli airstrikes in Rafah last month.

Palestinians inspect the damage following Israeli airstrikes in Rafah last month.Credit: Getty

“We’re very concerned about the humanitarian consequences, as are like-minded countries including the United States.

Albanese also questioned why it had taken condemnation of the killing of seven aid workers, including Australian woman Zomi Frankcom, to push Israel into opening more aid entry points.

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“Quite clearly in Gaza, there are dire consequences for the population there – issues of access to clean water, access to food, basic provisions, people suffering greatly,” he said.

“If those access points can be available now, why is it that more aid hasn’t been gotten into those communities?”

Of the 253 people Hamas seized on October 7, 133 hostages remain captive. Negotiators have spoken of about 40 going free in the first stage of a prospective deal.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Gazan Health Ministry. It doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, but says two-thirds of the dead are children and women.

Israel’s military continued to suffer losses, including in Khan Younis, where the military said four soldiers were killed.

More than 600 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the October 7 invasion, when about 1200 people were killed, according to Israel’s government.

Reuters

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