“We’re not standing with a stopwatch. We are taking care of the operation’s objectives,” Netanyahu said.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Reports of a Israel-Hamas ceasefire (though devotedly wished by the international community) are greatly exaggerated.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied the existence of such an agreement, as have Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups.
President Joe Biden has phoned Netanyahu several times in recent days, hinting that he would like a ceasefire reached sooner than later, but still backing Israel’s defensive measures against Hamas. In a call on Wednesday he was still more explicit, saying he “expects a significant calming already today.”
Israel doesn’t want to appear to be knuckling under to pressure, website N12 reports, and therefore has sent the message through diplomatic channels that international demands to end the conflict only strengthen Hamas and further puts off the desired ceasefire.
During a press conference for some 70 foreign diplomats and journalists at Tel Aviv’s Kirya military base on Wednesday, Netanyahu insisted that there is no definite end date for the conflict.
“We’re not standing with a stopwatch. We are taking care of the operation’s objectives,” Netanyahu said. He reiterated that he could not predict when hostilities would end.
While Israel would like to wind down the clashes, Netanyahu said, Israel was prepared to continue airstrikes and other methods necessary to “achieve a state of deterrence against Hamas to bring an end to the fighting.”
בתדרוך עם עשרות שגרירים הצגתי היום את האמת של ישראל נגד מחבלי החמאס והבהרתי: אם הדמוקרטיות בעולם יתקפו אותנו במקום את חמאס, הן ינהגו בטיפשות וחוסר אחריות שיסכן אותן ויתן פרס לטרור. pic.twitter.com/2UnmzBDslP
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) May 19, 2021
The premier also suggested that the conflict was triggered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to cancel long-awaited Palestinian elections.
“Hamas used the events of Jerusalem Day and the situation in Sheikh Jarrah to serve its own political interest,” he said, implying that the terror group was essentially engaging in warfare with Israel as a method of electioneering.
Hamas also denied that it had agreed to a ceasefire. “No agreement or specific timings for the ceasefire were reached,” Izzat al-Rishq, a Hamas senior official, said in a statement on Wednesday.
“While emphasizing that the efforts and contacts of the mediators are serious and continuous, the demands of our people are clear and well-known.”
As a condition for a ceasefire, Hamas is demanding the cancellation of evictions in Sheik Jarrah and the withdrawal of all Israeli security forces from the vicinity of the Temple Mount.
Such terms are reportedly a non-starter for Israel, which rejects the idea that Hamas should have any say in what happens to Jerusalem.
The rumors of a ceasefire on the horizon come as international players have stepped up efforts to pressure Israel and Gaza into ending this round of military clashes.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday that he’d drafted a UN Security Council resolution urging both sides to enter a ceasefire. He is supported by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
“The three countries agreed on three simple elements: The shooting must stop, the time has come for a ceasefire and the UN Security Council must take up the issue,” Macron’s office said in a statement.
Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday that Israel recently floated a ceasefire agreement in which Hamas would stop rocket launches while Israel mulled next steps — a proposition that the terror group refused.