Freeland says Canada welcomes Gaza ceasefire proposal, reiterates calls around hostages, aid

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says a Gaza ceasefire proposal outlined by U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday is an "important step," as parties wait for an official response from Hamas.

Freeland was asked about the proposal, which envisions three stages of actions aimed at a permanent end to the Israel-Hamas conflict, at an event in Toronto on Sunday.

She said Canada continues to call for a ceasefire, the return of hostages and urgent flow of humanitarian aid.

"The proposal that President Biden laid out is an important step.... We agree with the president that it's time now for the other side to make clear their view of the proposal," she said.

Hamas has not yet formally responded to the proposal, which was sent to them via Qatar. U.S. officials have been lobbying to finalize the deal, and on Sunday a high-ranking Israeli official indicated that that country would accept the proposal if Hamas did.

In an interview with Britain's Sunday Times, Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the proposal was "a deal we agreed to, it's not a good deal but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them."

"There are a lot of details to be worked out," he said, adding that Israeli conditions, including "the release of the hostages and the destruction of Hamas as a genocidal terrorist organization," have not changed.

The deal faces challenges. In Israel, senior members of Netanyahu's coalition government have threatened to resign if it goes through.

Hamas has provisionally welcomed the ceasefire initiative, though a senior official from the group, Sami Abu Zuhri, said on Sunday that "Hamas is too big to be bypassed or sidelined by Netanyahu or Biden."

On Saturday, another Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, told Al Jazeera: "Biden's speech included positive ideas, but we want this to materialize within the framework of a comprehensive agreement that meets our demands."

The primary sticking point in past negotiations has been Israel's insistence that it would discuss only temporary pauses to fighting until Hamas is destroyed. Hamas, which shows no sign of stepping aside, says it will free hostages only under a path to a permanent end to the war.

In his speech Friday, Biden said the latest proposal "creates a better 'day after' in Gaza without Hamas in power." He did not elaborate on how this would be achieved, and acknowledged that "there are a number of details to negotiate to move from phase one to phase two."

Falk reiterated Netanyahu's position that "there will not be a permanent ceasefire until all our objectives are met."

It's been almost eight months since Hamas-led militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking 250 more hostage, according to Israel. During Israel's assault on Gaza, more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed, Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry says.