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Netanyahu rejects prospect of Gaza withdrawal or release of prisoners

An Israeli soldier takes up position on the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
An Israeli soldier takes up position on the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied reports of a possible ceasefire deal to end the war in Gaza.

Speaking at an event in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, he repeated his vow to keep fighting until “absolute victory” over Hamas.

“We will not end this war without achieving all of our goals,” he said.

“We will not withdraw the Israeli military from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists,” he said, referring to Hamas’ main demands.

Israel Palestinians
Journalists gather outside of Ibn Sina hospital where the deadly raid took place (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

His pledge came as Israeli forces disguised as civilian women and medical workers stormed a hospital on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, killing three Palestinian militants in a dramatic raid that underscored how deadly violence has spilled into the territory from the war in Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces opened fire inside the wards of the Ibn Sina Hospital in the town of Jenin.

The ministry condemned the raid and called on the international community to pressure Israel’s military to halt such operations in hospitals.

A hospital spokesperson said there was no exchange of fire, indicating that it was a targeted killing.

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Israeli soldiers stand in a Hamas tunnel underneath a cemetery in Khan Younis (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)

The military said the militants were using the hospital as a hideout, without providing evidence.

It alleged that one of those targeted in the raid had transferred weapons and ammunition to others for a planned attack, purportedly inspired by the Hamas assault on southern Israel on October 7 that triggered the war in Gaza.

Footage said to be security camera video from the hospital that circulated on social media showed about a dozen undercover forces, most of them armed, dressed as women with Muslim headscarves or hospital staff in scrubs or white doctor’s coats.

One in a surgical mask carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other. The forces were seen patting down one man who kneeled against a wall, his arms raised.

The Associated Press has not independently verified the footage, but it is consistent with AP reporting.

The war began when hundreds of Hamas-led militants stormed into Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250 others.

More than 100 were released during a weeklong ceasefire in November in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

In response, Israel launched a blistering air, sea and ground offensive that killed more than 26,700 people in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The ministry count does not distinguish between fighters and non-combatants, but it says about two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

A strike on a residential building in the central town of Deir al-Balah on Tuesday killed 11 people, including four children, according to Associated Press reporters who saw the bodies at a hospital.

The conflict has also levelled vast swaths of the tiny coastal enclave, displaced 85% of its population, and pushed a quarter of residents to starvation.

That humanitarian crisis may soon be exacerbated, the UN has warned, after several countries froze funding to the main aid provider to Palestinians in Gaza following Israeli claims that a dozen of its workers participated in the October 7 assault.