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Gazans ‘clinging to glimpse of hope’ as Biden pushes new ceasefire proposal

Civilians in Gaza are “clinging to the glimpse of hope” after the US announced a new ceasefire proposal to end the violence between Israel and Hamas.

The US President, Joe Biden announced, a three-part plan for a ceasefire in Gaza, which would include the return of Israeli hostages, a boost to the imports of humanitarian aid and an eventual end to hostilities.

The Israeli proposal has been received “positively” by Hamas, according to a spokesman.

Aid workers on the ground said the proposal had been “widely welcomed” by locals in Gaza, as well as by international actors including the EU.

“Hamas has publicly reacted positively to the proposal stating their willingness to engage in any effort leading to a permanent and sustainable ceasefire,” Jamil Sawalmeh, Country Director of ActionAid Palestine told i.

Mr Sawalmeh said the world was “running out of time to take serious action to save lives”, with more than 36,000 Palestinians dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

“The people of Gaza are now clinging to this glimpse of hope, let us not fail them over and over again, and see this proposal through for the good of all,” he said.

But Dr Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) and tutor at the University of Oxford, warned this could be another “false dawn”.

Several previous ceasefire proposals have failed to materialise.

What is the ceasefire proposal?

The deal proposed by Israel and the US has three stages.

1. Ceasefire

The first phase would launch a temporary, six-week ceasefire during which a permanent ceasefire would be negotiated.

Israeli forces withdraw from “all populated areas of Gaza” and civilians would be able to return to their homes across the Strip.

A number of Israeli hostages including women, the elderly and the wounded would also be released, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

There would be a surge in humanitarian aid, with “600 trucks carrying aid into Gaza every single day”, that could then be “safely and effectively distributed to all who need it”, Biden said.

2. Living hostage exchange

Stage two of the proposal would involve the return of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, who were kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October.

The ceasefire would become “the cessation of hostilities permanently”, and Israeli forces would withdraw fully from Gaza at this point.

Mr Biden acknowledged that this would be difficult to achieve.

3. Exchange of hostage remains

Phase three of the plan would include the return of remains of Israeli hostages.

“I think we have to be a bit cautious. The Israeli military are continuing, or even over the past 24 hours showing signs of intensifying, some of their operations in central Rafah, so they still appear to be committed to ‘finishing the job’ [of defeating Hamas in Gaza],” he told i.

Dr Ramani warned that it was “very easy” for the deal to fall apart, if Hamas could not produce living hostages, there is a hitch in the release or Israel continues operations in Gaza.

“The Qataris are involved in mediating the deal, and just last week they were saying they were pessmistic, so it’s an unexpected break. Overall, there’s not that much to look forward to at the moment,” he said.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasised again today that there could be no permanent ceasefire in Gaza until Hamas was destroyed. He said any notion Israel would agree a permanent ceasefire before “the destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities” was “a non-starter”.

Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday 28 May (Photo: AP/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Palestinian children use a hazmat suit to transport belongings as they flee the area of Tel al-Sultan in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 30, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP) (Photo by EYAD BABA/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinian children use a hazmat suit to transport belongings as they flee the area of Tel al-Sultan in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on 30 May (Photo: Eyad Baba/ AFP via Getty)

But Dr Ramani said the ceasefire roposal showed the pressure President Biden was under to end the war as the US presidential election approaches, following the resignation of two further members of his administration and amid growing tensions in the Indo-Pacific and the need to direct resources away from the Middle East.

“I think it would be greeted very positively in Gaza, but in Israel it will be more of a polarised reaction,” he said.

“There will be many people who are relieved that the war is over and they can go back to their lives, who feel that they’ve done enough. There will be people who are cognisant of the fact that only 35 per cent of Hamas has been destroyed, according to US estimates, and that defeating them will be a years long project – if possible at all.”

The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, today urged Hamas to accept the deal, saying once a ceasefire was agreed, the UK could “flood Gaza with far more aid”.

“I hope Hamas take this opportunity to conclude the deal that’s on the table, which will ensure that the hostages can be released and be back with their families, that we can flood Gaza with far more aid than we’ve been getting in,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, joined the US in urging Hamas to accept the deal. “As we’ve long argued, a stop in the fighting can be turned into a permanent peace if we are all prepared to take the right steps. Let’s seize this moment and bring this conflict to an end,” he said.

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, also said President Biden had “all our support” in his efforts to secure a permanent ceasefire.

Gaza has been under heavy bombardment and ground offensives since 7 October, when Hamas, the militant group which runs the territory, killed around 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals. More than 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas and dragged back to Gaza.

It was the worst loss of life in a single day since the state of Israel’s founding in 1948.

In the offensives launched by Israel since 7 October, more than 36,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Crucial supplies such as food, water and medicine have been running critically low, with more than 20 children dying of malnutrition according to Save the Children, and the UN warning that famine is “imminent”.

There have been more than 400 attacks on healthcare documented since October, Save the Children said, with 26 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals rendered completely non-functional.

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