Netanyahu rejects Hamas' proposal to stop fighting. Israeli President Izchak Herzog will travel to the Munich Security Conference next week.

People at night at a demonstration in Israel on January 20.

A demonstration in Israel on January 20. Some of the hostages were released during the last ceasefire in November 2023. Photo: Leo Correa/dpa

Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire proposal

Efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of Israeli hostages have so far failed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected the proposal of radical Islamic Hamas to stop the fighting. Only a complete victory will allow Israel to restore security, he said in Jerusalem.

On behalf of Hamas, its main representative, Osama Hamdan, immediately called on all factions of the Palestinian resistance to continue the clashes. He also announced that Hamas negotiator Chalil al-Hajja would travel to Cairo to continue negotiating a ceasefire with Egypt and Qatar.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hamas presented its counterproposal to a draft by the American and Israeli spy chiefs, which was delivered to Hamas by Qatari and Egyptian mediators last week. Consequently, a 135-day ceasefire should be agreed upon. In three phases of 45 days each, all remaining hostages would be released in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Furthermore, the Israeli army should withdraw and reach an agreement to end the war that has been going on since the beginning of October. (rtr)

Former Hamas hostages criticize government attitude

Several former hostages criticized the attitude of the Israeli government. According to the newspaper, the price of releasing people still detained in the Gaza Strip is high, one woman admitted. Israel Times at a press conference. “But if we don't do it, it will tarnish Israel forever.”

If the hostages do not return home, everyone will know “that we live in a country that does not care about our safety, that does not protect its citizens,” said another freed woman. Everything is in Netanyahu's hands, another former hostage said, according to the report. He greatly fears that there will be no more kidnapped people to release if the Prime Minister continues on his way. (dpa)

President Herzog attends Munich Security Conference

The president of Israel, Izchak Herzog, will participate next week in the Munich Security Conference (MSC). This was confirmed by the leader of the conference, Christoph Heusgen, to the German Press Agency. He would not say whether members of Benjamin Netanyahu's Israeli government will also participate. In any case, the Prime Minister himself will not come to Munich.

“Netanyahu has already been to the MSC and made a notable appearance there in 2018. Now we look forward to the president,” Heusgen said. During his speech in Munich in 2018, Netanyahu held up the remains of an Iranian drone shot down over Israel. He wanted to support his accusation of Iranian aggression against Israel.

The escalation of the conflict in the Middle East on October 7 will be one of the main topics of the Munich Security Conference, which will be held from February 16 to 18. Also expected in the region are the heads of government of Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq and Kuwait, as well as the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Oman. “The Yemeni government is also very represented,” Heusgen said.

In total, about 50 heads of state will travel to Munich, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is also expected to attend the security conference. (dpa)

EU military operation in the Red Sea to begin soon

Planning for the EU military operation to protect merchant ships in the Red Sea is nearing completion. As confirmed by several diplomats, a written decision-making process to establish Operation Aspides is scheduled to begin on Friday. The basic plan of the EU military operation is to send European warships to the region to protect cargo ships. Its goal is to protect merchant ships there from attacks by Yemen's Houthi Islamist militants. The militia wants to end Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip by bombing ships.

The Bundeswehr wants to participate in the operation with the frigate “Hessen”. The ship is scheduled to leave Wilhelmshaven this Thursday and head towards the Mediterranean. She is equipped, among other things, with anti-aircraft missiles and was designed specifically for escort and maritime control. According to the Bundeswehr, with its special radar it can control an airspace the size of the entire North Sea. (dpa)

Expansion of Israeli military operations in Rafah

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected demands from radical Islamic group Hamas for a ceasefire and said he had ordered an expansion of military operations in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military has been instructed to “prepare” for an operation in Rafah and two refugee camps, Netanyahu said in a televised speech Wednesday night. Accepting the “strange demands of Hamas” will not lead to the release of the hostages, “but will only invite another massacre,” he emphasized. (afp)

UN chief Guterres ahead of military offensive in southern Gaza

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned Israel against a military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip. “I am especially concerned by reports that the Israeli military intends to next focus on Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are under pressure in a desperate search for safety,” Guterres told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday. Such an action would exponentially worsen “what is already a humanitarian nightmare with incalculable regional consequences.” It is time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the unconditional release of all hostages. (dpa)

Blinken's mediation attempts have so far been unsuccessful

The efforts of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who wanted to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of the hostages with a lightning trip to four countries, also appear to have failed. So far there has only been a one-week ceasefire at the end of November. In the United States, the Gaza war is playing an increasingly important role in the emerging presidential election campaign.

Hamas and allied radical groups attacked southern Israel on October 7. According to Israeli information, 1,200 people were killed and a total of 253 people were kidnapped in the Gaza Strip. 110 were released during the week-long ceasefire in late November. According to the Israeli military on Tuesday, 31 of the hostages are dead.

According to health authorities in the Gaza Strip, around 27,600 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured since the Israeli attacks began. (rtr)

Israeli protesters block aid trucks

Israeli protesters have blocked trucks carrying humanitarian aid supplies from entering the Gaza Strip. As reported by the Israeli authority Cogat, no trucks were able to cross the Kerem Shalom border crossing on Wednesday. However, the inspection of goods entering the Gaza Strip through Egypt at another border crossing was not affected. The protests at the Kerem Shalom border crossing have been going on for days.

Protest participants have said delivering aid to the Gaza Strip helps Hamas remain operational and prevents it from releasing hostages. Aid groups have said the scale of aid arriving in Gaza is inadequate to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, even with the border crossing fully operational.

Last week, the Israeli military declared the area around Kerem Shalom a restricted area, temporarily halting protests. But this week an alliance of activist groups managed to enter the area and obstruct the passage of the trucks. It was initially unclear how the activists were able to enter a restricted military zone. (ap)