Hostages' Families Push for Biden's Ceasefire Plan

'This might be the last chance to save lives,' says one relative advocating for proposal on Gaza
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 1, 2024 8:30 AM CDT
Hostages' Families Put the Squeeze on for Ceasefire
GRAPHIC WARNING:The body of a Palestinian child is carried to their funeral, one of several people killed by an Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in Deir al Balah, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas called for all parties to immediately accept a proposal detailed by US President Biden to end the nearly eight-month-long war and bring their relatives home, but Israel's government said conditions for a ceasefire still must be met. Biden outlined a three-phase deal Friday proposed by Israel to Hamas, saying the militant group is "no longer capable" of carrying out another large-scale attack on Israel. He urged the Israelis and Hamas to come to an agreement to release some 100 remaining hostages, along with the bodies of around 30 more, for an extended ceasefire in Gaza. Ceasefire talks ground to a halt last month after a major push by the US and other mediators to secure a deal in hopes of averting a full Israeli invasion of Gaza's southern city of Rafah.

Israel says the Rafah operation is vital to uprooting Hamas fighters responsible for the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the war. Israel on Friday confirmed its troops were operating in central parts of the city. The ground assault has led to an exodus of around 1 million Palestinians out of the city and has thrown UN humanitarian operations based in the area into turmoil. Following Biden's speech, hostage families said Saturday that time was running out, with the onus on both Israel and Hamas to accept the deal, per the AP. "We want to see people coming back from Gaza alive and soon," Gili Roman says. His sister, Yarden Roman-Gat, was taken hostage and freed during a weeklong ceasefire in November, but Yarden's sister-in-law, Carmel Gat, is still being held.

"This might be the last chance to save lives. Therefore, the current state must be changed, and we expect all to adhere to Biden's call for accepting the deal on the table, immediately. There is no other way towards a better situation for all. Our leadership must not disappoint us. But mostly, all eyes should be on Hamas," he said. The proposal came after what hostage families said was an aggressive meeting Thursday with Israel's national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, who told them that the government wasn't ready to sign a deal to bring all of the hostages home and that there was no Plan B. Hanegbi said this week he expects the war to drag on for another seven months, in order to destroy the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised a "total victory" that would remove Hamas from power, dismantle its military structure, and return the hostages. On Saturday, the government said its conditions for ending the war hadn't changed. Putting a permanent ceasefire in place before the conditions are fulfilled is a "nonstarter," it said. Many hostage families blame the government's lack of will to secure a deal for the deaths of many of the hostages in captivity. "We know that the government of Israel has done an awful lot to delay reaching a deal, and that has cost the lives of many people who survived in captivity for weeks and weeks and months and months," says Sharone Lipschitz, whose mother Yocheved was freed in November; her father, Oded, is still in captivity. "Our hearts are broken by the amount of people we will receive that are no longer alive." More here.

(More Israel-Hamas war stories.)

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