Pressure for truce deal rises as Israel reports four Gaza captives killed

The US says the onus is on Hamas to accept the deal, but confusion continues to build over Israel’s stance.

Israel has confirmed that four of the captives held in Gaza were likely killed during air raids on the enclave.

The Israeli military said late on Monday that the four men were believed to have died in southern Gaza several months ago. The news is likely to increase pressure on Israel’s government to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas.

The military did not provide details, citing a continuing investigation, but spokesman Daniel Hagari said Chaim Peri, 79, Amiram Cooper, 84, Yoram Metzger, 80, and Nadav Popplewell, 51, who were being held together by Hamas, were killed while its “forces were operating in Khan Younis”.

In December, Hamas had released a video of Peri, Cooper and Metzger pleading for their release. The Palestinian group reported in March that the three were killed by Israeli air raids.

Popplewell was seen in May in a video that appears to have been released after he died.

Pressure point

The news of the men’s deaths will add to the pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seal a deal that would see the remaining captives released.

According to an Israeli tally, about 80 of the 240 or so people taken by Palestinian groups during the October 7 attacks on Israel are still believed to be held in Gaza alive. The remains of 43 are believed to be still in the enclave.

However, alongside furious demands that he agree to a ceasefire to secure the release of the captives, the Israeli leader is also being pressed by hardliners in his coalition government to continue the war.

That has produced ambiguity over Israel’s approach to efforts to find a route to end the conflict.

In the latest bid, US President Joe Biden is pushing a ceasefire agreement – which he claims was proposed by Israel – saying it could become a “cessation of hostilities permanently” if initial phases are implemented.

The three-phase plan includes an exchange of prisoners for the remaining captives, the return of the remains of dead captives, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, a significant increase in humanitarian aid to the Strip, and a roadmap for its reconstruction.

‘Split’

However, Netanyahu has insisted that the military will continue to pursue the “destruction” of Hamas, and the lack of clarity over the proposal announced by Biden is building.

Sultan Barakat, a professor of public policy at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, told Al Jazeera that the situation around the proposed roadmap is “very confusing”.

“Biden has announced something that some Israelis say that he should not have announced, some say he announced it without our approval, and there’s an opinion that maybe he’s announced it with Gantz’s approval as opposed to Netanyahu and Gallant, the other two members of the war cabinet,” he said.

“That shows that there may be a split within Israel as to which direction they can take,” he said.

Qatar, which has been playing a mediation role throughout the conflict, stressed on Tuesday the need for a clear position from both Israel and Hamas in order to reach a deal.

“We are waiting for a clear Israeli position that represents the entire government in response to the US’s Gaza proposal,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari, adding that there are “no other options” to end the war other than sitting down at the negotiating table and reaching a deal.

“No one can have a total win on this war,” he added. “I think it’s very clear to the international community that claims that you can wipe out Hamas, or sideline the Palestinian issue altogether, will only produce more violence, and that it is unachievable.”

About face

Regardless, Washington is now gearing up to try to garner support for the deal at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday that she wants UNSC members to back a new resolution put forward by Washington “to end the fighting in Gaza through a ceasefire and a hostage deal”.

“Numerous leaders and governments, including in the region, have endorsed this plan – and we call on the Security Council to join them,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a post on X.

The US has vetoed multiple resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as it continues to fund and arm Israel amid the war despite growing international criticism.

Another ceasefire resolution, put forward by Algeria last week, specifically calling for Israel to halt its ground invasion of Rafah, did not gain the support of Washington, with a US State Department spokesperson describing the text as “imbalanced”.

Source: Al Jazeera