Middle east

Hamas awaits Netanyahu’s response amid Israeli protester pressures

The Director of the CIA travels to Qatar and Egypt to discuss a proposal that could lead to a framework agreement if Israel agrees, potentially ending the war.

Protests began in Israel on Sunday to pressure Benjamin Netanyahu‘s government to reach a hostage agreement. Demonstrators blocked roads and held sit-ins in front of ministers’ homes, while two Hamas officials stated that the movement is waiting for an Israeli response to its ceasefire proposal after accepting a key part of a U.S. plan aimed at ending the nine-month-long war in the Gaza Strip.

One of the Hamas officials, who requested anonymity, told Reuters, “We have left our response with the mediators and are waiting to hear the occupation’s response.”

U.S. President Joe Biden proposed a three-phase plan at the end of May, in which Qatar and Egypt play a mediating role. The plan aims to end the war and free about 120 hostages held by Hamas for Israel.

Another Palestinian official, familiar with the ongoing ceasefire deliberations, stated that there are talks with Israel through Qatari mediators. He said on Sunday, “They discussed Hamas‘ response and promised to come back with a reply within days.”

Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has abandoned a key demand that Israel first commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing an agreement. A Hamas source said on Saturday that the movement would instead allow this to be achieved through negotiations during the first phase, which lasts six weeks.

A Palestinian official, familiar with the peace efforts, said the proposal could lead to a framework agreement if Israel agrees, potentially ending the war. Another source mentioned that CIA Director William Burns would travel to Qatar and Egypt for negotiations.

In parallel with efforts to persuade Israel to stop the war, protesters took to the streets across Israel on Sunday to pressure the government to reach an agreement to return the Israeli hostages still held in Gaza.

Protesters blocked traffic during rush hour at major intersections across Israel and briefly set fires with tires on the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before the police managed to reopen it.

Israeli media reported that the protests began at 6:30 PM local time, the same time Hamas launched an attack on Israel on October 7.

Small groups with loudspeakers and banners also protested in front of the homes of several ministers and deputies belonging to the government coalition. A small crowd in front of the home of Minister Ron Dermer, a close associate of Prime Minister Netanyahu, chanted, “Total failure! Total failure!”

In a residential complex near the Gaza border, protesters hung black balloons symbolizing those killed in Hamas‘ attack and yellow balloons symbolizing the hostages still held in Gaza.

Some Israelis disagree with the protesters’ goals, urging Netanyahu‘s government to reject any agreement and continue fighting until all of Israel’s objectives are achieved.

Meanwhile, fighting continued across the Gaza Strip, which has largely been turned into rubble during this conflict. Palestinian health officials said at least 15 people were killed on Sunday in several Israeli strikes.

They added that an Israeli airstrike on a house in the town of Zawaida in central Gaza killed at least six people and injured several others, while another six were killed in an airstrike on a house in western Gaza.

Israeli tanks continued to advance in areas in central and northern Rafah on the Egyptian border. Health officials there said they retrieved three bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the city’s east.

The Israeli army said on Sunday that its forces killed 30 Palestinian militants in Rafah in close combat and airstrikes.

In the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, the army said its forces killed several Palestinian militants and found weapons and explosives.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their fighters attacked Israeli forces at several sites across the Gaza Strip with anti-tank missiles and mortars.

Escalation continues in the West Bank, with at least 15 people, including former prisoners, arrested from Saturday evening to Sunday. The Prisoners’ Club and the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said in a joint statement that “arrests were distributed across Hebron, Tubas, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. Occupation forces also conducted field investigations with a group of citizens in the town of Silwad, east of Ramallah, most of whom were later released.”

The statement noted that “the occupation continues to carry out widespread raids and abuse, accompanied by beatings, threats against detainees and their families, and home demolitions and destruction.”

The statement added that “the total number of arrests since October 7 has exceeded 9,550, including those arrested from homes, at military checkpoints, forced to surrender under pressure, and held as hostages.”

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