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Prospects for a Gaza ceasefire hang in the balance

PROSPECTS for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza hung in the balance today.

Neither side has agreed to the proposals for a halt to the fighting put forward by the United States.

Achieving a deal has been further complicated by the Israeli mission on Saturday that freed four hostages but killed at least 274 Palestinians.

Under the proposal, Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centres and Hamas would free hostages. The ceasefire would last an initial six weeks, with it extended as negotiators seek a permanent end to hostilities.

Although the deal has been described as an Israeli initiative and thousands of Israelis have demonstrated in support of the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for Israel to cease all fighting until Hamas is eradicated.

Mr Netanyahu’s far-right allies have threatened to collapse his government if he implements the plan.

Benny Gantz resigned on Sunday from the three-member war cabinet after saying he would do so if the prime minister did not formulate a new plan for postwar Gaza. 

Mr Gantz said: “Unfortunately, Netanyahu is preventing us from achieving true victory, which is the justification for the painful and ongoing price.” 

He added that Mr Netanyahu was “making empty promises,” and the country needs to take a different direction as he expects the fighting to continue for years to come.

The former military chief joined Mr Netanyahu’s government shortly after the Hamas attack in a show of unity. 

Mr Gantz is known to have close working relations with US officials.

The US appears determined to press ahead with the plan and has requested a UN security council vote on Monday on its draft resolution backing a plan for an “immediate ceasefire with the release of hostages” between Israel and Hamas.

Nate Evans, a spokesman for the US delegation, said on Sunday: “Today, the US called for the security council to move towards a vote … supporting the proposal on the table.

“Council members should not let this opportunity pass by and must speak with one voice in support of this deal.”

There is no indication that Israel would pay any attention to a council ceasefire resolution.

Meanwhile the Gaza Health Ministry announced that the Palestinian death toll had now topped 37,000 since the Israeli retaliation for the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7 began.

Israel launched a relentless ground and air assault after some 1,200 were killed during the Hamas attack and 250 people were taken hostage. Hamas is thought to be holding around 120 hostages with 43 pronounced dead.

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