Israel offers Hamas ceasefire proposal that could end war in Gaza, Biden says

Palestinians walk and inspect the damage after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of the Jabalia refugee camp, following a raid, in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday. (Mahmoud Issa/Reuters - image credit)
Palestinians walk and inspect the damage after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of the Jabalia refugee camp, following a raid, in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday. (Mahmoud Issa/Reuters - image credit)

Israel has presented Hamas with a truce proposal that could immediately lead to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza, after the United States said the deal could pave the way to ending the war after nearly eight months.

The first of the deal's three phases would see Israeli forces fully withdraw from all "populated areas" of Gaza and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners — including women, children and the elderly — released from captivity. Palestinian families would be able to return to their homes, if they still stand, and aid deliveries to the devastated enclave would "surge" to 600 trucks per day.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had given his negotiating team the green light to present the proposal to Hamas, while "insisting that the war will not end until all of its goals are achieved, including the return of all our hostages and the destruction of Hamas's military and governmental capabilities."

"The Israeli government is united in the desire to return our hostages as soon as possible and is working to achieve this goal," the statement read.

Hamas posted its own statement on its Telegram channel reacting positively to the potential deal, saying it was ready to engage "positively and in a constructive manner" with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces, the return of displaced families, the reconstruction of Gaza and a "genuine" prisoner swap deal if Israel were to clearly announce its commitment to the agreement.

U.S. President Joe Biden laid out details of the agreement earlier Friday. He described the proposal on the table as "a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages."

"It's time for this war to end and for the day after to begin," Biden said during a White House briefing.

Mahmoud Issa/Reuters
Mahmoud Issa/Reuters

The proposal comes as Israel grows increasingly isolated from some of its strongest allies and the wider international community over its ongoing attacks on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, which have killed civilians and continued in spite of an order from the United Nations' top court to stand down.

Biden said while he recognizes there are some in Israel who do not want the war to end, Hamas is no longer capable, after nearly eight months of war, of leading another attack like the surprise assault on Oct. 7. Further conflict, he said, will drain Israel's economy and harm its international standing.

"There are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely. Some are even in the government coalition," he said.

"I've urged leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes."

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said "Canada fully supports the proposal" that Biden outlined.

"It must be accepted. All parties must seize this opportunity to bring an end to human suffering and build a path towards an irreversible two-state solution," Joly said in a statement posted Friday evening on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

WATCH | How Israel is responding to global pressure:

Israel's ambassador to Canada, Iddo Moed, said in a statement released Saturday that remarks from Joly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in support of the Biden announcement "misunderstand the context around the Israeli ceasefire deal."

Moed said the U.S. and other countries have specifically pressured Hamas to accept the deal, and called on Canada to do the same.

3-phase proposal

Biden said the proposed deal, if Hamas accepts it, would play out in three stages.

The first phase would bring the "complete ceasefire" in the war. During the second phase, Hamas and Israel would negotiate terms of a permanent end to hostilities. All remaining hostages, including men and soldiers, would also be released.

"The ceasefire will still continue as long as negotiations continue," Biden said.

During Phase 3, reconstruction plans would begin in Gaza, and the remains of any hostages who were killed would be returned to their families.

Biden said Qatar relayed the proposal to Hamas.

A hostage proposal put forward earlier this year called for the release of sick, elderly and wounded hostages in Gaza in exchange for a six-week ceasefire that could be extended to allow for more humanitarian aid to be delivered into the enclave.

The proposed deal fell apart earlier this month after Israel refused to agree to a permanent end to the war as part of the negotiations and ramped up an assault on Rafah.

WATCHPresident Joe Biden outlines new Gaza ceasefire offer:

Israel presses forward in Gaza

On the ground in Gaza, Israeli forces said they had ended combat operations in the Jabalia area of north Gaza on Friday after destroying more than 10 kilometres of tunnels during days of intense fighting that included over 200 airstrikes.

During the operation, troops recovered the bodies of seven of the hostages, the military said, without elaborating on their identities.

Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty Images
Bashar Taleb/AFP/Getty Images

Hamas-led militants abducted some 250 people when they stormed over the border into Israel on Oct. 7 last year, killing around 1,200 people, according to Israeli government tallies. About 120 people remain unaccounted for.

Over 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's air and land war since then in Gaza, according to health officials there, and much of the densely populated enclave lies in ruins.

LISTEN | Kenneth Roth, human rights expert, on Israel's investigations:

Rafah, the only major city in Gaza yet to have been taken by Israeli forces, had been a refuge for more than one million Palestinians driven from their homes by fighting in other areas of the small coastal enclave, but most have now left after being told to evacuate ahead of the Israeli operation.

Hundreds of thousands are now living in tents and other temporary shelters in a special evacuation zone in nearby Al-Mawasi, a sandy, palm tree-dotted district on the coast, as well as areas in central Gaza.

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Israel has signalled for weeks that it intended to mount an assault on the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah, drawing international condemnation and warnings even from allies like the United States not to attack the city while it remained full of displaced people.

The risks were underlined on Sunday when an Israeli airstrike targeting two Hamas commanders outside the city set off a blaze that killed at least 45 people sheltering in tents next to the compound hit by the jets.

As the war has dragged on and Gaza's infrastructure has been widely demolished, malnutrition has spread among the 2.3 million population as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, and the United Nations has warned of incipient famine.