Biden's Gaza ceasefire proposal on table as negotiators gather this week, sources say

Palestinian and Israeli delegations are expected to return to Egypt to discuss details of the deal

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes in Rafah on Monday. Reuters
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Palestinian and Israeli delegations are expected to return to Egypt this week to discuss details of a deal outlined by US President Joe Biden to end the war in Gaza, sources told The National on Tuesday.

The talks will focus on plans for the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the technical details of the Israeli army's forces in the enclave, the names of Palestinian detainees to be released, and the future governance of Gaza.

On Monday, the US said it was seeking support from the UN Security Council for the proposed ceasefire.

It sent a draft resolution stressing “the importance of the parties adhering to the terms of the deal once agreed, with the aim of bringing about a permanent cessation of hostilities,” Reuters reported.

The three-phase plan announced by Mr Biden on May 31 would involve a “complete ceasefire” and an increase in aid to Gaza, with the release of some of the remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the first phase.

The second phase proposes a “permanent end to hostilities” and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, with the rest of the hostages released, while the final phase brings in the reconstruction of Gaza and the return of the remaining hostages to their families.

Israel believes that more than a third of the remaining Gaza hostages are dead, a government tally showed on Tuesday.

“A top Israeli delegation made up of the Mossad, its domestic security sister, and the army is expected in Cairo later this week,” said one of the sources.

The delegation is expected to bring Israel's response to a joint plan by the Palestinian Authority and Egypt for the Rafah border crossing, currently under Israeli control, and the technical details of the redeployment of forces in the first phase before the full withdrawal.

Rafah and detainees

In the meantime, a Hamas-led delegation of Palestinian factions “is also expected in Egypt later this week to discuss the lists of names of prisoners they want Israel to release and the future governance of Gaza,” said the source.

The implementation of the deal will be preceded by 48 hours during which the warring parties will stand down major combat operations.

The idea is for the two parties to be reassured of the other's readiness to commit to a ceasefire, the sources said.

“Egypt and the PA are already in contact to come up with a formula for running the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing that would be acceptable to Israel before it pulls out from the Gaza side of the facility,” said one source, adding that Egypt wants this issue sorted out before the first phase of the plan begins.

According to the sources, Mr Biden wants his plan “to be enforced by next week”, but “a great deal of distrust and suspicion” between the warring sides is hindering the process.

The proposal, which Mr Biden described as an “Israeli proposal”, has widened the rift among members of Israel's war cabinet as it waits for a Hamas response.

Centrist politicians Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot have spent recent weeks amplifying calls for elections and threats to abandon the administration, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not setting clear objectives for the war and abandoning Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have threatened to bring down the government if Mr Netanyahu pursues anything other than a full-throttle war effort in Gaza, despite mounting international concern over the humanitarian toll.

There is also growing uncertainty among the Israel public that total victory over Hamas is possible.

Updated: June 05, 2024, 9:13 AM