Israeli war cabinet due to meet as Netanyahu 'strongly opposes' ending Gaza war

Israeli war cabinet due to meet as Netanyahu 'strongly opposes' ending Gaza war


Netanyahu has long rejected Hamas's demand in negotiations for a permanent end to the conflict.

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JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he "strongly opposes" ending the war in Gaza, ahead of his war cabinet meeting amid intense diplomacy to forge a truce and hostage release deal.

Deadly fighting meanwhile rocked the Gaza Strip, and the Palestine Red Cross posted on X late Sunday that Israeli aircraft killed or wounded a "large number" of people in a strike on a displacement camp near the far-southern city of Rafah.

"This location was designated by the Israeli occupation as a humanitarian area," it said. There was no immediate comment from the military.

Hamas militants also fired rockets at Israel's commercial hub Tel Aviv for the first time in months, sending people scrambling for shelter.

Netanyahu has long rejected Hamas's demand in negotiations for a permanent end to the conflict triggered by the Palestinian militant group's October 7 attack and that has left vast areas of besieged Gaza in ruins.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the war cabinet would "discuss a hostage release deal" on Sunday.

Before the meeting, Netanyahu's office said Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya "Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able to carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again".

"Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this," a statement said.

A member of Hamas's political leadership, Izzat al-Rishq, accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of "trying to buy more time to continue the aggression".

In Brussels, the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told journalists before meeting Palestinian premier Mohammed Mustafa that a strong Palestinian Authority (PA) was in Israel's interest.

EU members Ireland and Spain, and also Norway, have said they will recognise the State of Palestine from Tuesday, drawing furious Israeli condemnation.

"A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel's interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one," Borrell said.

Mustafa, whose government is based in the occupied West Bank, said the "first priority" was to support the people in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then "rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority" in the territory after Hamas seized it from the PA in 2007.

US President Joe Biden has pushed for renewed international efforts to halt the war, now in its eighth month.

The Israeli official had said Saturday that "there is an intention to renew these talks this week" after negotiations involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators stalled in early May.

However, Rishq said Sunday that so far, "we have not received anything from the mediators".


The attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The military on Sunday announced the death of a soldier in north Gaza, taking to 289 the number of troops killed since Israel began its ground offensive in late October.

As the war ground on, the families of hostages still held by militants have piled pressure on Netanyahu to secure a deal to free them.

Washington has also taken a tougher line with its close ally as outrage over the war and US support for Israel has become a major issue for Biden, seeking re-election in a battle against Donald Trump.

With more strikes reported Sunday across Gaza, Israel's military said it had destroyed "over 50 terror targets" over the past 24 hours.

Fighting has centred on Rafah, where it launched a ground operation in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.

Rafah resident Moaz Abu Taha, 29, told AFP of "constant bombardment from land and air, which has destroyed many houses".

The Red Crescent said Israeli aircraft targeted "displaced persons' tents near the United Nations headquarters northwest of Rafah... resulting in numerous martyrs and casualties".

The Hamas authorities' "emergency committee" in Rafah and the Gaza health ministry reported dozens of casualties, but did not immediately say how many of them died.


Hamas's armed wing said it had targeted Tel Aviv "with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist (Israeli) massacres against civilians".

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised briefing "Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at central Israel from Rafah".

"Hamas launched these rockets from near two mosques in Rafah," he said. "Hamas is holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why we have been conducting a precise operation" there.

Analyst Neomi Neumann said the militants were not trying to "cause damage to Israel, but to maintain continuity of fire".

They "shoot relatively few rockets per barrage from their diminishing arsenal, and choose when to concentrate their efforts", said Neumann, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.

The UN has warned of looming famine in besieged Gaza, where most hospitals are no longer functioning.

Amid the bloodiest ever Gaza war, Israel has faced growing global outcry over the surging civilian death toll, and landmark moves at two international courts.

Last Monday, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defence minister as well as for three top Hamas figures.

And on Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive or any other operation there that could bring about "the physical destruction" of the Palestinians.