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Israel says yes to Biden’s Gaza truce plan, albeit reluctantly – World

• Mediators call on Hamas, Israel to finalise agreement
• At least 60 Palestinians killed in overnight attacks

JERUSALEM: An aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Tel Aviv had accepted a framework deal, advanced by US President Joe Biden to wind down the war, even as Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip on Sunday.

With 60 deaths among Palestinians over the past 24 hours, the death toll climbed to 36,439, the health ministry in Gaza said. A statement said 82,627 people had been wounded in the Gaza Strip since Oct 2023.

In an interview with UK’s Sunday Times, Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, said Biden’s proposal was “a deal we agreed to”, adding that though it’s not a good deal, but Israel dearly wanted the prisoners released, all of them.

“There are a lot of details to be worked out,” he said, adding that Israeli conditions, including the release of prisoners and the destruction of Hamas had not changed.

Biden has hailed several ceasefire proposals over the past several months, each with similar frameworks to the one he outlined on Friday, all of which collapsed.

The primary sticking point has been Israel’s insistence that it would discuss only temporary pauses to fighting until Hamas is destroyed. Hamas, which shows no sign of stepping aside, says it will free the prisoners only under a path to a permanent end to the war.

In a related development, the president of the United Arab Emirates and the emir of Qatar discussed Biden’s Gaza proposal, according to the UAE’s state news agency.

Mediators including the US, Qatar and Egypt on Saturday said they “call on both Hamas and Israel to finalise the agreement embodying the principles outlined by President Joe Biden”.

Hamas has provisionally welcomed the Biden initiative.

“Biden’s speech included positive ideas, but we want this to materialise within the framework of a comprehensive agreement that meets our demands,” senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

Hamas wants a guaranteed end to the Gaza offensive, withdrawal of all invading forces, free movement for Palestinians and reconstruction aid.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has also offered Netanyahu political support if the government secures a deal.

However, other Israeli officials have rejected it as an effective return to the situation in place before Oct 7, when Hamas ruled Gaza.

Israel’s defence minister said Tel Aviv would not accept Hamas continuing to rule Gaza at any stage during the process to wind down the war, and that it was examining alternatives to the Islamist group.

“While we conduct our important military actions, the defence establishment is simultaneously assessing a governing alternative to Hamas,” Yoav Gallant said in a statement.

“We will isolate areas (in Gaza), remove Hamas operatives from these areas and introduce forces that will enable an alternative government to form an alternative that threatens Hamas,” Gallant said.

Raging battles

Deadly fighting rocked Gaza overnight and Sunday, with the Israeli military reporting more air strikes and ground combat.

Across Gaza, the Israeli military claimed it had struck 30 targets over the past day, including weapons storage facilities.

Heavy fighting has flared in far-southern Rafah, where Israel sent tanks and troops in early May, ignoring concerns for displaced civilians sheltering in the city.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said on Sunday that all 36 of its shelters in Rafah “are now empty”, after at least a million civilians have fled the city that until last month was sheltering 1.4 million people.

“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 of the territory.

Witnesses said Israeli Apache attack helicopters on Sunday opened fire on targets in central Rafah, a jet fired a missile at a house in the western Tal al-Sultan district and artillery shelling targeted the southern Brazil neighbourhood.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2024

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