Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal

Israeli military armored vehicles roll in an area bordering the Gaza Strip on Jun. 9, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal

  • Hopes for a ceasefire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment
  • Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group

TEL AVIV: A proposed ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is raising hopes that eight months of fighting could soon come to an end. Displaced Palestinians are desperate to return home and rebuild, while Israelis yearn for dozens of captives taken by Hamas to be freed.
The US-backed proposal is the latest serious attempt to wind down the war in Gaza, and while it still faces significant hurdles, negotiations meant to bring it to fruition are ongoing.
But hopes for a ceasefire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment. Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group before ceasing the fighting.
Here is a look at the hopes, fears and expectations of some in the region as the sides weigh a deal:
‘We want a solution’
With the war displacing 80 percent of Gaza’s population, making much of the urban landscape uninhabitable, and sparking widespread hunger, Palestinians are aching for an end to the hostilities.
“We want a solution. We want to return to our homes. We are tired of this life,” said Salama Abu Al-Qumbuz, a displaced person sheltering in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah.
The fighting, sparked by Hamas’ cross-border attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel, has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians. Most Palestinians in Gaza have lost at least one relative. Some have lost dozens.
The war, and the multiple failed attempts to secure a ceasefire deal, have deepened despair in the territory, which is compounded by the constant insecurity, the unnerving uncertainty about the future and, for some, the boredom of a life put on hold by the fighting.
Some have lost hope in the negotiations.
“They negotiated a lot, to no avail,” said Etaf Abdel Bari, who was also sheltering in Deir Al-Balah. “We are not a toy in their hands.”
Hostage families want a deal, but some don’t
In Israel, those most desperate for a deal are the families of the hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups.
The Hamas-led militants took some 250 people hostage in their attack, according to Israeli authorities, and after a ceasefire deal in November freed about 100. Around 80 people are still captive, along with the remains of about 40 others. The families have agonized over the fates of their loves ones, many without receiving a sign of life for eight months.
The families and thousands of their supporters gather weekly to demonstrate in support of a deal, arguing that negotiations are the only way to free significant numbers of hostages. And polls show the Israeli public views freeing them through a deal as a priority.
Shahar Mor Zahiro, whose uncle, Abraham Munder, 79, is being held hostage, said he fears this deal may fall through like previous ones.
“We already have like six or seven cycles of hope and despair, hope and despair, but what can we do? We are clinging on to any hope there is,” he said.
There is widespread support for a hostage deal, with tens of thousands of people joining street protests each week.
But among the families of hostages, some oppose a deal that would leave Hamas intact.
Eitan Zeliger is the director of the Tikva Forum, which he says represents about 30 hostage families who oppose freeing their loved ones through a deal that ends the war. Instead, they insist that Israel ramp up military pressure on Hamas to weaken its negotiating position.
“It is long and hard and hell for many hostage families,” he said. “But the families we are in touch with understand that there is no way to return the hostages without war.”
The mothers of soldiers speak out
In the aftermath of Hamas’ attack, Jewish Israelis rallied around the military as it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists to help fight against Hamas. But some voices are emerging, including of the mothers of soldiers, who accuse Netanyahu of dragging out the war to appease his far-right coalition members and keep himself in power.
“I don’t believe the decision-makers,” Noorit Felsenthal Berger, whose 21-year-old son has spent the better part of eight months in Gaza, told Israeli Army Radio Thursday. “I think we need to stop and we have a historic opportunity here,” she said about the proposed deal.
The postwar period is expected to include investigations into the government’s failures before the Oct. 7 attack and could likely lead to new elections at a time when Netanyahu’s popularity has dropped. The army says over 600 soldiers have been killed.
Protests by the mothers of soldiers have in previous wars helped pressure leaders to end the fighting, a movement that has yet to materialize in any significant numbers surrounding the war in Gaza.
That’s in part because there are other relatives of fighters who support continuing the war and balk at a deal that would leave Hamas in place.
The Gvura Forum, which represents some of the families of soldiers killed during the war, said in a letter to Netanyahu earlier this month that if Israel agreed to the proposed deal, it would be surrendering to Hamas without reaching the goals of the war.
“We will not agree that our loved ones serve as a silver platter on which the rule of terror returns to Gaza,” the group wrote.


US declares end to troubled Gaza aid pier mission

Updated 4 sec ago
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US declares end to troubled Gaza aid pier mission

  • Joe Biden has expressed disappointment in the performance of the pier, which has repeatedly been detached from the shore because of bad weather
  • Vice Admiral Brad Cooper: ‘The maritime surge mission involving the pier is complete, so there’s no more need to use the pier’

WASHINGTON: The US military’s problem-plagued mission to deliver desperately needed aid to Gaza via a temporary pier has ended, a senior American officer said Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden has expressed disappointment in the performance of the pier, which has repeatedly been detached from the shore because of bad weather since its initial installation in mid-May, limiting the time it has been operational.
“The maritime surge mission involving the pier is complete, so there’s no more need to use the pier,” Vice Admiral Brad Cooper told journalists.
The pier was damaged by bad weather in May and had to be removed for repairs. It was then reattached on June 7, but was moved to Ashdod on June 14 to protect it from anticipated high seas — a situation that was repeated later in the month.
Distribution of aid once it reaches land has also been a problem, with the UN World Food Programme suspending deliveries of assistance that arrived via the pier last month to assess the security situation after Israel conducted a military operation nearby.
Biden announced the pier project during his State of the Union address in March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by land, and the Pentagon has said it helped push the Israeli government to open more aid routes.
“The deployment of this pier has... helped secure Israeli commitment to opening additional crossings into northern Gaza,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists last week.
Gaza is suffering through a war that broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 38,794 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to figures from Gaza’s health ministry.


Israel’s West Bank policy is dooming two-state solution: UN chief

An Israeli army excavator moves during a raid in the Nur Shams camp for Palestinian refugees east of Tulkarm in West Bank.
Updated 2 min 30 sec ago
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Israel’s West Bank policy is dooming two-state solution: UN chief

  • Settlement expansion is expected to speed up due to big land seizures in strategic areas and changes to planning, land management and governance, Guterres said
  • “Recent developments are driving a stake through the heart of any prospect for a two-state solution”: UN chief

UNITED NATIONS: Israel’s policy toward the West Bank is dooming any prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday.
Violence and arrests have soared in the Israeli-occupied territory since the Gaza war erupted over Hamas’s October 7 attacks.
Through administrative and legal steps, Israel is changing the geography of the West Bank, Guterres said in a statement read by his chief of staff, Courtenay Rattray, during a meeting of the Security Council.
Settlement expansion is expected to speed up due to big land seizures in strategic areas and changes to planning, land management and governance, Guterres added.
“Recent developments are driving a stake through the heart of any prospect for a two-state solution,” said the UN chief.
He said Israel is taking steps to extend sovereignty over the West Bank.
Guterres said Israel has taken punitive steps against the Palestinian Authority and legalized five Israeli outposts in the West Bank.
Israel has built such outposts as part of its occupation of the West Bank since 1967.
“We must change course. All settlement activity must cease immediately,” Guterres said.
He said Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
Guterres repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of all hostages.
“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is a moral stain on us all,” Guterres said.
The war began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,794 people, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the Gaza health ministry.


US hits former Israeli military sergeant with visa restrictions

Israeli army soldiers take position during a raid in the Nur Shams camp for Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank.
Updated 27 min 50 sec ago
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US hits former Israeli military sergeant with visa restrictions

  • Sergeant Elor Azaria “and any immediate family members are generally ineligible for entry into the United States,” State Department said in a statement

WASHINGTON: The US has imposed visa restrictions against a former Israeli military sergeant for his alleged involvement in gross violations of human rights in the occupied West Bank, including an extrajudicial killing, the State Department said on Wednesday.
As a result of the restrictions, Sergeant Elor Azaria “and any immediate family members are generally ineligible for entry into the United States,” the department said in a statement.
The department also said it was taking steps to impose visa restrictions “on an additional group of individuals for having been involved in or meaningfully contributed to undermining the peace, security, or stability in the West Bank.”


WHO warns of rising attacks on Sudan hospitals

Patients receive treatment at the Gedaref Oncology Hospital in eastern Sudan on May 1, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 42 min 46 sec ago
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WHO warns of rising attacks on Sudan hospitals

  • Recent UN-backed report said nearly 26 million people, or slightly more than half of the population, were facing high levels of “acute food insecurity”
  • Both the army and the RSF have been accused of obstructing humanitarian aid and nearly destroying Sudan’s already fragile health care system

CAIRO: Hospitals and other health care facilities in war-torn Sudan are facing increased attacks, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Wednesday as fighting between the army and paramilitaries rages on.
Since the start of the war in April 2023, the WHO has recorded 82 attacks on health care facilities, “including 17 in the last six weeks alone,” said Hanan Balkhy, the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean regional director.
Meanwhile, the country is suffering from the “spread of diseases such as cholera, malaria and meningitis,” she warned during a video conference.
The conflict between the regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than ten million people, according to the United Nations.
With the war showing no signs of abating, the delivery of humanitarian aid faces “administrative, security and logistical obstacles,” said Shible Sahbani, the WHO’s representative in Sudan.
Despite the challenges, “the WHO distributed 510 tons of medicines and aid materials between January and July,” he added, saying that two trucks entered North Darfur last week from Chad and seven trucks are en route to Darfur from Port Sudan.
Sahbani said hunger is the main factor driving Sudanese to flee the country, referring to testimonies from asylum-seekers in neighboring Chad.
A recent UN-backed report said nearly 26 million people, or slightly more than half of the population, were facing high levels of “acute food insecurity.”
Humanitarian agencies say that the difficulty of obtaining data on the ground has prevented famine from being officially declared in Sudan.
Both the army and the RSF have been accused of obstructing humanitarian aid and nearly destroying Sudan’s already fragile health care system.


Israeli strike kills Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Relatives and friends mourn over the bodies of three children killed in Israeli strikes during their funeral in Al-Qasmiya area.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Israeli strike kills Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

  • Nasrallah threatens to target settlements if civilians continue to be targeted

BEIRUT: Israeli warplanes on Wednesday renewed their raids on the town of Umm Al-Tut, near the town of Marwahin in southern Lebanon, hours after similar raids on the town resulted in the deaths of three children from a Syrian refugee family.

The children, who were killed while working on a farm when an Israeli drone struck, were buried in the town of Qasimia in the Tyre region.

According to media reports from the south, “Israeli attacks recently hit new villages that were relatively spared for several months, and their residents had not been displaced.”

Such attacks last week targeted the outskirts of the towns of Deir Mimas, Jdeidet Marjeyoun, Borj El-Mlouk, Qlayaat, Ebel El-Saqi, Rachaya Al-Foukhar, Rmeish and Kawkaba, which are predominantly Christian villages.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech on Wednesday to mark Ashura, said: “The enemy has gone too far in targeting civilians in recent days; two civilian martyrs in Kfarkela, three martyrs, a brother and his two sisters in Bint Jbeil, two Syrian civilian martyrs between Arnoun and Kfar Tebnit, three child martyrs in Umm Al-Tut near the border.

“The resistance responded to this at night with dozens of rockets, approximately 120 rockets, targeting Kiryat Shmona and many other settlements; six or seven settlements at night. Today, I want to tell the enemy that persistence in targeting civilians will prompt the resistance to launch rockets and target new settlements that have not been targeted before,” Nasrallah said.

Alfred Mady, the head of Al-Khayar Al-Akhar, or The Other Choice movement, made a plea to the Maronite authority in Bkerke to “take action to preserve the Christian presence in southern Lebanon.”

A security source suggested that “Israel may be adopting a policy of intimidating civilians in villages that have been spared so far, to push them to flee and thus continue pressuring Hezbollah.”

Nasrallah warned Israel of the consequences of any invasion of Lebanon, saying Israel would be left without any tanks if a full-blown conflict erupted.

“Our front will not stop as long as the aggression continues on Gaza, and the threat of war will not scare us.”

He stressed that “in case the aggression stops, the party negotiating on behalf of Lebanon is the Lebanese state, and we informed everyone who contacted us that the party responsible for negotiations and providing answers is the Lebanese state. All rumors about a ready agreement on the situation at the southern borders are incorrect. No agreement has been reached so far. There are drafts, ideas, and proposals. The future of the situation in the south will be decided in light of the results of this battle.”

Nasrallah said: “Whatever support the Lebanese state will provide to our people in the villages of the south, we assure our people whose homes were completely or partially demolished that we will work with you. We will reconstruct our homes, and we will rebuild our front villages as they were and more beautiful than they were.”

Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib warned of the catastrophic consequences that would arise in the event of any Israeli escalation against Lebanon. He praised the diplomatic efforts of the mediators, emphasizing “Lebanon’s commitment to initiatives and solutions aimed at reducing escalation and enhancing regional security and peace.”