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Mediators Press Israel, Hamas to Agree to Truce Proposal

Fresh strikes were reported across the Gaza Strip overnight into Monday, as mediators urged Israel and Hamas to agree to a truce and hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden.

Since Biden spoke at the White House on Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted Israel will pursue the war — now nearing its ninth month — until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the captives taken during the Palestinian group’s unprecedented October 7 attack.

Hamas has said it “views positively” what Biden described as an Israeli proposal.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss the deal, the State Department said in a pair of statements Sunday night.

In the calls, Blinken “commended” Israel on the proposal and “emphasised that Hamas should take the deal without delay”.

Netanyahu, a hawkish political veteran leading a fragile right-wing coalition government, is under intense domestic pressure from two sides.


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses to the media. File photo

Protesters backing an immediate hostage release, who rallied again on Saturday in Tel Aviv, want him to strike a truce deal, but his far-right allies are threatening to bring down the government if he does.

Meanwhile, fighting has continued to rock Gaza, with hospitals there reporting at least 19 killed in overnight strikes into Monday morning.

Gaza’s European hospital said 10 people were killed and several wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house east of the main southern city of Khan Yunis. And six people were reported killed in a strike on a family home further north in the central Bureij refugee camp, according to Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital.

Air strikes and shelling were also reported in Gaza City, in the territory’s north, as well as in Rafah, along its southern border with Egypt.

Political pressure

Netanyahu said Saturday that “Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel”.

Mediators the United States, Qatar and Egypt later said they called “on both Hamas and Israel to finalise the agreement embodying the principles outlined by President Joe Biden”.


People attend a protest against government and to call for the release of October 7 hostages in Tel Aviv. Reuters

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ABC News Sunday that “we have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal, as was transmitted to them — an Israeli proposal — that Israel would say yes”.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The Palestinian group Hamas also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardments and ground offensive have killed at least 36,439 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry said on Sunday.

According to Biden, Israel’s three-stage offer would begin with a six-week phase that would see Israeli forces withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza and an initial hostage-prisoner exchange.

Israel and the Palestinians would then negotiate for a lasting ceasefire, with the truce to continue as long as talks are ongoing, Biden said, adding it was “time for this war to end”.


Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in Rafah. Reuters

Netanyahu took issue with Biden’s presentation, insisting that according to the “exact outline proposed by Israel” the transition from one stage to the next was “conditional” and crafted to allow it to maintain its war aims.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, leaders of the two extreme-right parties in parliament, warned they would leave the government if it endorsed the truce proposal — potentially costing Netanyahu’s coalition its majority.

But opposition leader Yair Lapid, a centrist former premier, said the government “cannot ignore Biden’s important speech” and vowed to back Netanyahu if his far-right coalition partners quit.

“I remind Netanyahu that he has our safety net for a hostage deal,” Lapid said on X.

Defence Minister Gallant, who has criticised Netanyahu over the lack of a post-war plan for Gaza, said Sunday that Israel was “assessing a governing alternative” to Hamas.

Heavy fighting

Heavy fighting has flared in Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel sent tanks and troops in early May, ignoring international concerns for displaced civilians there.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said Sunday that all 36 of its shelters in Rafah “are now empty”, after at least a million people fled the city.


Palestinians look through a house damaged in an Israeli raid. Reuters

“The humanitarian space continues to shrink”, UNRWA said, adding that about 1.7 million people were now sheltering in southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Yunis and in central areas.

Witnesses said Israeli Apache helicopters struck central Rafah on Sunday, also reporting clashes there and air raids and shelling in other parts of the city.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it was “very difficult” to access Rafah because of the Israeli bombardment.


Palestinians, who had taken refuge in Rafah, leave the city to return to Khan Yunis. AFP

Meanwhile, in Syria, a strike attributed to Israel killed at least 12 “pro-Iranian fighters” early Monday morning near Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

While it rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria, Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran — which also backs Hamas — to expand its presence there.

C. AFP

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