In the midst of talk of a truce, Netanyahu says that Hamas must be crushed

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Hamas and Israel’s opposition leader on Monday expressed support for the ceasefire deal that President Joe Biden said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed, even as Netanyahu objected to Biden’s version of the plan.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that Hamas views Netanyahu’s proposal, which Biden unveiled last week, “positively,” according to a Times of Israel translation. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a press conference on Monday that the United States is waiting for an official response from Hamas to the proposal that the movement received on Thursday.

In Israel, Netanyahu’s political rival Yair Lapid urged the government to approve the deal and promised to provide a “political safety net” if the prime minister’s far-right associates follow through on the threats and withdraw from the fragile ruling coalition. Lapid said, “The Israeli government must agree to Netanyahu’s proposal and send a delegation to Cairo today to finalize the final details and return (the hostages) to their homeland.”

The United States is urging the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution supporting the plan, which would require at least nine favorable votes and no veto power, Reuters reported.

Biden said that Netanyahu presented a three-stage plan that includes the return of all hostages and a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza by the end of the second stage. But on the day the Israeli military announced the killing of four more hostages, Netanyahu called Biden’s description of the proposal “incomplete,” saying Israel was maintaining its “war goals, primarily the elimination of Hamas.”

Biden says Israel has offered a plan: A 6-week ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages

Developments:

∎ A date has not yet been set for Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress, but it will not be on June 13 as reported on Monday because it coincides with a Jewish holiday, his office said in a statement.

∎ More than half of the buildings in Gaza appear to have been destroyed or damaged since the war began on October 7, according to preliminary satellites. Analysis by the United Nations.

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∎ Hundreds marched for peace through downtown Jerusalem in a show of interfaith solidarity. Organizers say the march is intended to counter the national flag march on Jerusalem Day, scheduled for Wednesday.

∎ British sandwich and café chain Pret a Manger said that travel restrictions imposed on its employees due to the war forced it to cancel its plans to expand into Israel.

Netanyahu on the ceasefire in Gaza: He says Hamas must be destroyed

Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich described the proposed deal as a “surrender offer” that he and his Religious Zionist Party would not support. He blamed the Israeli war cabinet for the parade and said they were continuing to “humiliate Israel.”

Right-wing Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir accused Netanyahu of “whitewashing” the proposed ceasefire agreement and threatened to withdraw his political party from the ruling coalition if it was approved. Ben Gvir said that Netanyahu’s office rejected his repeated efforts to review the details of the deal.

Ben Gvir said in a statement, “The details of the deal as presented by President Biden show that it is a deal that means Israel’s surrender and an end to the war without achieving the main goal of destroying Hamas.” “If you sign a random agreement that would end the war without Hamas collapsing, Otzma Yehudit (Ben Gvir’s party) will dissolve the government.”

The Israeli military said on Monday that it had informed the families of the four men kidnapped during the October 7 attacks that they were dead and that their bodies were being held by Hamas.

The IDF said it had confirmed through its sources that Haim Peri, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper, and Nadav Popplewell had died, adding that “the circumstances of their deaths in Hamas captivity are still under investigation by all professionals involved.”

Israel said Hamas and allied armed groups are holding more than 130 hostages in Gaza, but it is not known how many of them are alive.

About 1 million Palestinians, the estimated number who took refuge in Rafah to escape war in other parts of Gaza, have been displaced again as Israel expands its offensive on the southern border city to go after Hamas, the United Nations said on Monday.

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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said that it is providing basic services to thousands of fleeing families in the affected facilities in the city of Khan Yunis, north of Rafah. UNRWA said, “The conditions are indescribable.”

The Israeli army is directing civilians in Rafah towards an “extended humanitarian zone” about 12 miles away, but refugees say no place is safe from Israeli attacks.

On May 26, an Israeli airstrike on a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah sparked a fire, killing 45 people and sparking international outrage. Netanyahu later referred to the incident as a “tragic accident.” The United States has been trying for months to dissuade Israel from launching its attack on Rafah, to no avail.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday that US, Egyptian and Israeli officials are holding meetings aimed at reopening the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, but that will not happen until Israel regains control over the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Last month, Israel seized the entire Gaza border with Egypt, including the crossing, during its attack on Hamas in Rafah. The crossing was the main access point for the flow of humanitarian aid, as well as a lifeline to the outside world for more than two million Palestinians living in the territories besieged by Israel.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said that Israeli forces are working to destroy tunnels between Gaza and Egypt that Hamas uses to smuggle weapons and escape the war. Egypt denies the existence of such tunnels.

A coalition of more than two dozen UN human rights experts on Monday urged all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and use all available political and diplomatic resources to reach an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. This call came less than a week after Spain, Ireland and Norway joined more than 140 countries in officially recognizing the Palestinian state. Israel has repeatedly condemned such actions, saying they strengthen Hamas. The United States sided with Israel, saying a solution must be negotiated.

The United Nations experts said in a statement, “This recognition is an important recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people, their struggle and their suffering for the sake of freedom and independence.”

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The Maldives has announced plans to bar Israeli passport holders from entering the Indian Ocean island nation, known as a luxury travel destination, amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Mohammed Mwizo, the president of the Muslim-majority country, had earlier condemned Israel over the recent raid on Rafah in southern Gaza that killed 45 Palestinians who had taken refuge in the temporary refugee camp established by Israel.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a post on Facebook that it was Providing advice to Israeli citizens To avoid traveling to the Maldives, and to leave any Israeli citizen currently in the country, “because if they fall into distress for any reason, it will be difficult for us to help.”

Savannah Kuchar

The Maldives bans the entry of Israelis Who entered the country in protest against the Gaza war

Biden said last week that Netanyahu proposed an agreement in three stages. The first phase lasts six weeks and includes a “complete ceasefire and withdrawal” of Israeli forces from all populated areas in Gaza. It will also include the release of some hostages, including women, the elderly, and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The second phase includes the release of all remaining living hostages, a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and a “permanent cessation of hostilities.” The third phase includes a major plan to reconstruct Gaza, and the bodies of any other hostages killed in captivity will be returned to their families.

Netanyahu, who is under intense political pressure at home, questioned Biden’s description of the proposed plan. According to The Times of Israel, Netanyahu said there are gaps between Biden’s version and Israel’s position.

Kirby backed down on that Monday. He told reporters: “I don’t know of any loopholes to talk about. We are confident that it accurately reflects this proposal – which is the proposal we worked on with the Israelis.”

Contributing: Francesca Chambers and Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, USA TODAY; Reuters

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