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Netanyahu Rejects 'Delusional' Hamas Hostage Terms; Baghdad Drone Strike Kills Iran-Backed Terror Leader

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected Hamas' terms for a ceasefire and hostage-release deal following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Still, participants in the negotiations say there's room for hope.

The prime minister insisted Israel is on its way to complete victory within a matter of months.

"The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) creates wonders, and is moving forward in a systematic way to get all the goals of the war that we, at the political level, required from it: the elimination of Hamas, the release of all hostages, and the promise that Gaza won't be a threat to Israel anymore," he stated.

Netanyahu repeated his belief that military pressure is the best way to release the nearly 100 hostages and approximately 30 bodies held by Hamas.

"Surrendering to Hamas’ delusional demands that we heard now not only won’t lead to freeing the captives, it will just invite another massacre – it will invite a major disaster on the state of Israel that none of our citizens would want to accept," he declared.

Hamas' terms include releasing hostages and bodies in three phases in exchange for an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners – including those who have murdered Israelis – more aid, and a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, thereby leaving Hamas with the capability to revive in Gaza.

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On his sixth visit to Israel in four months, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says from the beginning, the U.S. has been intensely focused on releasing the hostages. He discussed the Hamas response with Israeli leaders regarding the deal the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt put together.

"What I can tell you about these discussions is that while there are some clear non-starters in Hamas's response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached, and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there," Blinken said.

Tensions are high in Israel regarding the hostages. Just after Netanyahu's press conference, six kidnapped women who were freed in November gave a press conference of their own, urging the prime minister to accept any deal.

Released hostage Sharon Aloni Cunio said, "The price is heavy (of hostages release), the price is unbearable – the price shrinks the stomach and body – but the price of neglect will become a historical stain for generations. Neglect will become synonymous for those who will issue a death sentence to those who were left and were kidnapped under their leadership.”

Elsewhere in the region, three members of the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia were killed in a drone strike on a car in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Wednesday. The U.S. has blamed the Islamic Resistance in Iraq for an attack in Jordan that killed three U.S. service members.

U.S. officials did not immediately comment on Wednesday's strike. The drone killing was a reminder that trouble in the region extends beyond Israel.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and