Egypt urges Israel and Hamas to accept cease-fire proposal

Egypt’s foreign minister urged Israel and Hamas on Monday to accept a cease-fire plan presented by President Biden in a surprise speech before the weekend, days after Hamas said it had received the proposal “positively” in a rare sign of diplomatic progress amid the grinding conflict.

Speaking during a news conference with his Spanish counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said, “Hamas’s initial statements indicate that it received the deal proposal positively, and we are waiting for the Israeli response.”

The proposal has divided public opinion in Israel, where more than 100,000 filled the streets of Tel Aviv this past weekend in support of the deal, demanding that the Israeli government accept it to hasten the release of hostages held in Gaza.

The proposal, however, also raised the ire of members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, who threatened to bring down the government if the deal is accepted.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, however, has said that he would provide backing to Netanyahu’s government to keep it from collapsing if it accepts the deal.

“The Israeli government must agree to the Netanyahu proposal and send a delegation to Cairo today to finalize the details,” he said. “I am repeating my offer to give Netanyahu a political safety net to carry out the deal.”

The Americans have said the proposal was originally presented by Israel and includes a six-week halt in fighting, during which hostages taken from Israel during Hamas’s blitz on Oct. 7 would be released in phases in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. There would also be a significant increase in aid shipments allowed into the Gaza Strip, where aid organizations have warned that a humanitarian crisis is underway.

In a statement relayed by his office during the daily briefing, Netanyahu said “the outline that President Biden presented is partial. The war will be stopped for the purpose of returning hostages, and then we will proceed with further discussions. There are other details which the U.S. president did not present to the public.”

The main point of contention for this and past proposals, however, remains how and when the war will officially end. Israel insists on the complete destruction of Hamas.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a Netanyahu rival within his own party, spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday night and said Israel envisions creating an alternative to Hamas to run Gaza.

“Putting a governmental alternative to Hamas will help to bring them home,” he said in a statement issued by the Defense Ministry. He told Blinken the security establishment is promoting measures to dismantle Hamas’s role as the governing and military authority in Gaza and enable the establishment of an alternative power that would overthrow Hamas rule and exert pressure to return hostages.

Hamas responded to Biden’s speech on Friday, saying that it viewed the deal positively but that its willingness to engage was “based on a permanent cease-fire” and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu has been under competing pressures for weeks: Those for a deal include moderate members of his war cabinet and the families of hostages. On the other side are more extreme partners in his coalition, who have maintained that an “absolute victory” must be achieved in Gaza. Biden’s public announcement of the cease-fire proposal has fanned the flames of these tensions.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which aids Palestinian refugees, said Monday that more than a million Palestinians have fled from Rafah since Israeli ground operations started last month and that most are sheltering in the ruins of the city of Khan Younis. “Conditions are unspeakable,” the agency said on X.

The Maldives will impose a ban on Israeli passport holders entering the country, the president’s office announced Monday, following a recommendation from the cabinet. The president will appoint a special envoy “to assess Palestinian needs” and set up a fundraising campaign to “assist our brothers and sisters in Palestine” with the help of UNRWA.

The Israel Defense Forces said it identified the body of Dolev Yehud, 35, a paramedic who left his house on Oct. 7 “in an attempt to save lives.” His body was found in Kibbutz Nir Oz, and his family was notified after it was identified by medical officials. The prime minister’s office said the number of hostages still being held in Gaza has been updated to 124, of which at least 39 have been declared dead. These figures include four Israelis held for a decade: two of them soldiers confirmed dead and the two others civilians whose fates are unknown.

At least 20 people were killed in three overnight strikes that hit central and southern parts of the Gaza Strip, Gaza’s civil defense spokesman said. The IDF said Monday it is continuing operations in Rafah and the central Gaza Strip.

At least 36,479 people have been killed and 82,777 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 287 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

Heba Farouk Mahfouz in Cairo, and Shira Rubin, Lior Soroka and Alon Rom in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

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