The US has ‘every expectation’ Israel will expect a ceasefire proposal

According to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the US government “expects” that Israel will accept a ceasefire proposal starting with a six-week ceasefire in Gaza if Hamas implements this agreement.

The three-part plan announced by President Joe Biden last week would also be a “surge” in humanitarian aid, as well as the exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners before the war ends permanently. .

However, this proposal has faced strong opposition from some members of the Israeli government.

The talks come as fighting continues in Rafah, which was hit by heavy Israeli airstrikes over the weekend.

According to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, all 36 of its shelters in the Rafah area are empty after residents were forced to flee.

Another estimated 1.7 million people were displaced in Khan Younis and some areas of central Gaza.

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday morning, Mr. Kirby said that the United States “fully expects” that Israel will “agree” to the proposed ceasefire if Hamas accepts it.

“We are waiting for an official response from Hamas,” he said, adding that the US hopes both sides agree to begin the first phase of the plan “as soon as possible.”

During the first six weeks of the pause in fighting, Mr. Kirby said “the two sides will sit down and try to negotiate what phase two will look like and when that can begin.”

In a televised address last week, Mr Biden said the second phase of the plan would see all remaining living hostages returned, including male soldiers. The ceasefire would then become “a permanent cessation of hostilities”.

However, on Saturday, two far-right Israeli ministers threatened to resign and collapse the country’s ruling coalition if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to the deal.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said they were opposed to reaching any agreement before Hamas was destroyed.

Similarly, Mr. Netanyahu affirmed that there will be no ceasefire until Hamas’s military and administrative capabilities are destroyed and all hostages are released.

Hanoch Milwidsky, the senior Knesset member representing Netanyahu’s Likud Party, told the BBC on Sunday that Israel’s ruling coalition was united in opposition to the deal, which he called “completely unacceptable”. .

“The Israeli government’s calculation has not changed – it means that Hamas can no longer rule Gaza, no longer has any capacity, no military or civilian capacity to take power, and all the hostages need to return.” speak. “The war will not stop until these demands are met.”

For his part, Mr. Kirby said U.S. intelligence now believes that Hamas has deteriorated militarily to the point where it cannot repeat an attack like the one its fighters launched on Oct. 7 .

“We are not saying that they are still not a real threat to the Israeli people,” he said. Yes of course”. “But they didn’t have the military capacity to do what they did.”

In another development on Sunday, the Maldives government announced it would ban Israeli citizens from the Indian Ocean archipelago, issuing a warning from the Israeli Foreign Ministry that its citizens should avoid the country.

About 11,000 Israelis visited the Maldives last year – less than 1% of all tourists.

According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, more than 36,000 people have been killed across Gaza since the start of the conflict.

The war began in October when Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 252 back to Gaza as hostages.

In the US, President Biden is facing growing domestic criticism over the level of US support for Israel, as well as calls to do more to encourage the warring parties to negotiate. .


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