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

In News, World
June 04, 2024

The US says the onus is on Hamas to accept the deal, and is pursuing a UNSC resolution to back it.

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 quartet is 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 deal with Hamas.

The military did not provide details citing an ongoing 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 quartet’s death 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 the 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 enclave, and a roadmap for its reconstruction.

However, Netanyahu has insisted that the military will continue to pursue the “destruction” of Hamas.

About face

Regardless, Washington is now gearing up to try to garner support for the ceasefire 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”.

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