Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest cease-fire proposal

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A proposed cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas is raising hopes that eight months of fighting could soon come to an end. Displaced Palestinians are desperate to return home and rebuild, while Israelis yearn for dozens of captives taken by Hamas to be freed.

The U.S.-backed proposal is the latest serious attempt to wind down the war in Gaza, and while it still faces significant hurdles, negotiations meant to bring it to fruition are ongoing.

But hopes for a cease-fire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment. Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group before ceasing the fighting.

Here is a look at the hopes, fears and expectations of some in the region as the sides weigh a deal:

‘We want a solution’

With the war displacing 80% of Gaza's population, making much of the urban landscape uninhabitable, and sparking widespread hunger, Palestinians are aching for an end to the hostilities.

“We want a solution. We want to return to our homes. We are tired of this life,” said Salama Abu al-Qumbuz, a displaced person sheltering in the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah.

The fighting, sparked by Hamas’ cross-border attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel, has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians. Most Palestinians in Gaza have lost at least one relative. Some have lost dozens.

The war, and the multiple failed attempts to secure a cease-fire deal, have deepened despair in the territory, which is compounded by the constant insecurity, the unnerving uncertainty about the future and, for some, the boredom of a life put on hold by the fighting.

Some have lost hope in the negotiations.

“They negotiated a lot, to no avail," said Etaf Abdel Bari, who was also sheltering in Deir al-Balah. “We are not a toy in their hands.”

Hostage families want a deal, but some don't

In Israel, those most desperate for a deal are the families of the hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups.

The Hamas-led militants took some 250 people hostage in their attack, according to Israeli authorities, and after a cease-fire deal in November freed about 100. Around 80 people are still captive, along with the remains of about 40 others. The families have agonized over the fates of their loves ones, many without receiving a sign of life for eight months.

The families and thousands of their supporters gather weekly to demonstrate in support of a deal, arguing that negotiations are the only way to free significant numbers of hostages. And polls show the Israeli public views freeing them through a deal as a priority.

Shahar Mor Zahiro, whose uncle, Abraham Munder, 79, is being held hostage, said he fears this deal may fall through like previous ones.

“We already have like six or seven cycles of hope and despair, hope and despair, but what can we do? We are clinging on to any hope there is,” he said.

There is widespread support for a hostage deal, with tens of thousands of people joining street protests each week.

But among the families of hostages, some oppose a deal that would leave Hamas intact.

Eitan Zeliger is the director of the Tikva Forum, which he says represents about 30 hostage families who oppose freeing their loved ones through a deal that ends the war. Instead, they insist that Israel ramp up military pressure on Hamas to weaken its negotiating position.

“It is long and hard and hell for many hostage families,” he said. “But the families we are in touch with understand that there is no way to return the hostages without war.”

The mothers of soldiers speak out

In the aftermath of Hamas’ attack, Jewish Israelis rallied around the military as it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists to help fight against Hamas. But some voices are emerging, including of the mothers of soldiers, who accuse Netanyahu of dragging out the war to appease his far-right coalition members and keep himself in power.

“I don’t believe the decision-makers,” Noorit Felsenthal Berger, whose 21-year-old son has spent the better part of eight months in Gaza, told Israeli Army Radio Thursday. “I think we need to stop and we have a historic opportunity here,” she said about the proposed deal.

The postwar period is expected to include investigations into the government’s failures before the Oct. 7 attack and could likely lead to new elections at a time when Netanyahu’s popularity has dropped. The army says over 600 soldiers have been killed.

Protests by the mothers of soldiers have in previous wars helped pressure leaders to end the fighting, a movement that has yet to materialize in any significant numbers surrounding the war in Gaza.

That’s in part because there are other relatives of fighters who support continuing the war and balk at a deal that would leave Hamas in place.

The Gvura Forum, which represents some of the families of soldiers killed during the war, said in a letter to Netanyahu earlier this month that if Israel agreed to the proposed deal, it would be surrendering to Hamas without reaching the goals of the war.

“We will not agree that our loved ones serve as a silver platter on which the rule of terror returns to Gaza,” the group wrote.

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Associated Press writer Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

Tia Goldenberg And Wafaa Shurafa, The Associated Press