Biden says no Gaza ceasefire deal soon as Hamas says number of captives alive 'unknown'

Biden says no Gaza ceasefire deal soon as Hamas says number of captives alive 'unknown'
US President Joe Biden said international leaders had discussed the ceasefire at the Group of Seven summit in Italy, but said an agreement was not yet in sight.
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President Biden said he hasn't 'lost hope' in a ceasefire deal being secured [Getty]

US President Joe Biden said Thursday he doesn’t expect to seal a Gaza ceasefire deal in the near future, claiming that an American-backed proposal with global support has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas.

Biden said international leaders had discussed the ceasefire at the Group of Seven summit in Italy, but when asked by reporters if a truce deal wound be reached soon, Biden replied simply, “No,” adding, “I haven’t lost hope.”

The Palestinian group responded to the proposal this week by offering changes, which it said aim to guarantee a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza. The proposal announced by Biden includes those provisions, but Hamas has expressed wariness whether Israel will implement the terms.

Israeli leaders have continued to insist that Hamas must be militarily defeated and destroyed, accusing the Palestinian group of hampering ceasefire attempts.

Earlier Thursday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan denied assertions that Israel isn’t fully committed to the ceasefire plan. Sullivan said the goal is “to figure out how we work to bridge the remaining gaps and get to a deal”.

Hamas has accused the US of attempting to "exonerate Israel from disrupting the truce deal" as it continues its war on Gaza.

Number of captives alive 'unknown'

On Thursday, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told CNN in an interview "no on has any idea" of how many of the 120 Israeli captives held in Gaza are still alive.

Hamas has said that many captives were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes and operations, including three allegedly killed during Israel's recent raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp. Israeli estimates say that 41 captives are presumed dead.

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The Lebanon-based Hamas official added that his group "needed a clear position from Israel to accept the ceasefire, a complete withdrawal from Gaza, and let the Palestinians to determine their future by themselves".

Hamdan said that a key sticking point was the duration of the ceasefire, which Hamas is demanding be permanent.

More than 100 Israeli captives were released during a week-long ceasefire in November, while fewer than ten have been directly recovered alive by Israeli forces in Gaza.

The recent rescue of four captives in an operation that killed at least 276 Palestinians was touted by the Netanyahu government as a success of the military operations. However, families of captives released and still held in Gaza have pushed for the government to agree a deal to ensure the release of their relatives, and for a clear plan for the war.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed over 37,232 Palestinians since October and wounded at least 85,000 others.

The indiscriminate military offensive has levelled entire neighbourhoods and plunged the enclave into a deep humanitarian crisis.