Israel weighs Hamas response to Gaza ceasefire proposal

Nidal al-Mughrabi, Mohammad Salem and Maayan Lubell |

Israeli strikes have continued in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli strikes have continued in the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his security cabinet to discuss new Hamas positions on a ceasefire deal in Gaza, a source in Netanyahu’s office says, as fighting in the enclave rages. 

Before the cabinet meets on Thursday night, Netanyahu would have consultations with his ceasefire negotiations team, the source said.

Israel received Hamas’ response on Wednesday to a proposal made public at the end of May by US President Joe Biden that would include the release of about 120 hostages held in Gaza and a ceasefire in the Palestinian enclave.

A Palestinian official close to the mediation effort told Reuters that Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has shown flexibility over some clauses, which would allow a framework agreement to be reached should Israel approve.

Two Hamas officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss the Hamas response with his security cabinet. (AP PHOTO)

Hamas has said any deal must end the nearly nine-month war and bring a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. 

Israel maintains it will accept only pauses in the fighting until Hamas is eradicated.

The plan entails the gradual release of Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza and the pullback of Israeli forces over the first two phases, as well as the freeing of Palestinian prisoners. 

The third phase involves the reconstruction of the war-shattered territory and the return of the remains of deceased hostages.

In Gaza, Palestinians reacted cautiously. 

“We hope that this is the end of the war, we are exhausted and we can’t stand more setbacks and disappointments,” said Youssef, a father of two, now displaced in Khan Younis in the south of the enclave.

“Every more hour into this war, more people die, and more houses get destroyed, so enough is enough. I say this to my leaders, to Israel and the world,” he told Reuters via a chat app.

Palestinians flee from parts of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip
Many Palestinians are still seeking shelter following Israel’s evacuation order for Khan Younis. (AP PHOTO)

On Thursday, Gaza’s health ministry said the Palestinian death toll in the nearly nine months of war had passed 38,000, with 87,445 wounded. 

The health ministry does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its figures.

Tanks shelled several areas on the eastern side of Khan Younis on Thursday after the Israeli army issued evacuation orders on Tuesday, but there had been no movement by the tanks into those areas, residents said.

On Thursday, many Palestinians were still seeking shelter following the evacuation order, which also included the border city of Rafah and which the United Nations said was the largest such edict since 1.1 million people were told to leave the north of the enclave in October.

Khan Younis residents said many families slept on the road because they could not find tents.

Israeli planes and tanks bombed several areas in the northern Gaza areas of Shejaia, Sabra, Daraj, and Tuffah, killing several Palestinians, including children, and wounding others, health officials said.

The Israeli military said that its troops and aircraft killed dozens of militants in those areas and in Rafah, in southern Gaza, which Israel has described as Hamas’ last stronghold.

The war in Gaza began when Hamas gunmen burst into southern Israel on October 7, killed 1200 people and took about 250 hostages back into Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

The offensive launched by Israel in retaliation has killed nearly 38,000 people, according to the Gaza health ministry, and has left the heavily built-up coastal enclave in ruins.