Hamas said it was weighing up a new ceasefire proposal in the war with Israel in Gaza, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his forces would not withdraw from the enclave until they had achieved “total victory”.
The developments came hours after Israeli commandos disguised as medical workers and Muslim women killed three Palestinian militants in an undercover raid on a hospital in the occupied West Bank, an action that underscored the risk of the Gaza conflict spreading to other fronts.
In Gaza, clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters in the north of the enclave forced more Palestinian residents to flee to safer areas and southern parts of the coastal enclave were hit by Israeli air strikes overnight.
Fighting intensified around Gaza’s largest hospital still in service, the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, which is surrounded by Israeli troops, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The ceasefire proposal followed talks in Paris involving CIA Director William Burns, Qatar’s prime minister, the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the head of Egyptian intelligence.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he was studying the plan and would go to Cairo to discuss it.
He said the priority for the Palestinian militant group was to end the Israeli offensive, now in its fourth month, and secure a full pull-out of Israeli forces from Gaza.
Mr Netanyahu, speaking during a visit to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, said: “We will not compromise on anything less than total victory.”
Israel will achieve all its objectives, he said, adding: “That means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza will no longer pose a threat to Israel.”
Until then no Palestinian prisoners will be freed from Israeli jails, Mr Netanyahu said.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Mr Netanyahu’s comments “prove he isn’t interested in the success of the Paris meeting and doesn’t care about (Israeli) prisoners’ lives.”
Hamas allies Islamic Jihad also dampened the prospects of a truce, saying it would not engage in any hostage deals without a comprehensive ceasefire and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Israel began its assault on Gaza in response to the Hamas attack in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 253 taken hostage.
More than 100 hostages remain captive in Gaza.
Since then, 26,751 Palestinians have been killed and 65,636 wounded by Israeli actions in Gaza, the Gaza health ministry said.
Some 114 Palestinians were killed and 249 injured in the past 24 hours, it said.
Israel says its forces have killed around 9,000 Palestinian combatants in Gaza and that 221 of its soldiers have been killed in the fighting.
The war has created a humanitarian crisis, with much of Gaza flattened, hundreds of thousands of people displaced, and supplies of food, water and medicines almost exhausted.
Health Minister of Palestine Mai al-Kaila said health conditions were catastrophic due to a shortage of medics, equipment, medicines and facilities.
She said decomposing bodies under the rubble were helping spread epidemics.
Israel mounted a new push in northern Gaza after earlier claiming successes against Palestinian militants there.
Much of the fighting is focused on the Beach refugee camp and near the Al Shifa hospital, residents said.
Residents and health officials also said an Israeli tank opened fire against Palestinians near Al-Kuwaiti Square on the southern edge of Gaza City where aid trucks unload their shipments, killing two people and wounding others.
In the south, Israeli forces kept up pressure in Khan Younis, maintaining their encirclement of the city’s two main hospitals.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli tanks fired near the Al-Amal Hospital and a Red Crescent office in Khan Younis, killing one person and wounding nine.