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Middle East Crisis: Israel and Hamas Signal Openness to Cease-Fire Plan, but Stop Short of Accepting It

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Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the world was waiting for Hamas to respond to a U.S.-backed cease-fire plan endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. Neither Israel nor Hamas has formally embraced it.CreditCredit...Pool photo by Jack Guez

A day after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal for the Gaza Strip, the focus shifted on Tuesday to the willingness of Israel and Hamas, under growing international pressure to end the war, to make a deal.

Each side made positive but vague statements about the cease-fire plan and blamed the other for prolonging a war that has devastated Gaza. But neither said it would formally embrace the proposal, which was outlined last month in a speech by President Biden and was the basis of the 14-0 vote in the Council on Monday.

An Israeli government official said in a statement that the proposal "enables Israel to achieve" its war goals, including destroying Hamas's capabilities and freeing all the hostages in Gaza. But the official, who could be quoted on condition that their name and office be withheld, stopped short of saying whether Israel would accept the agreement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly declined to take a firm stand on the plan.

A senior Hamas official, Husam Badran, said the group had "dealt positively" with the proposal despite "no clear and public stance" from the Israeli government. Earlier on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had said that the fate of the deal rested with Hamas's top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who has not said whether he supports it.

"All parties involved and following the negotiations know: Netanyahu is the sole obstacle to reaching an agreement that would end the war," Mr. Badran said in a text message.

The statements offered little clarity to the fate of a cease-fire proposal. The 14-0 vote in the Council supporting the proposal came as Mr. Blinken met with Israeli leaders on his eighth wartime visit to the Middle East to press Hamas and Israel to agree to a cease-fire.

Hamas and an allied group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, later issued a statement saying they had given Egypt and Qatar a response to the U.N. resolution, but did not say they had accepted it. They stressed their demand for an Israeli withdrawal and their readiness to negotiate — points they had made many times before. Qatar and Egypt act as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which do not communicate directly with each other.

An official with knowledge of the talks said the response proposed amendments to the cease-fire plan, including firm timetables for not only a short-term truce but a permanent one, and for a full Israeli withdrawal.

Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, Mr. Blinken sought to put the onus directly on Mr. Sinwar, Hamas's top official in Gaza, asking whether the group would act in the best interests of the Palestinian people by accepting the deal.

Mr. Blinken said he had received explicit assurances from Mr. Netanyahu in their meeting on Monday that he supported the proposal.

Mr. Netanyahu has said he will not accept any deal that ends the war before Hamas military and governing capabilities are destroyed, even as experts cast doubt on whether its war goals can be achieved. The Israeli government official who released the statement on Tuesday doubled down on that view.

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United Nations Security Council Backs Gaza Cease-Fire Resolution

Fourteen of the 15 members on the U.N. Security Council, with Russia abstaining, voted in favor of adopting a proposal calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. Neither Israel nor Hamas has formally embraced the plan.

"14 votes in favor, zero votes against, one abstention. The draft resolution has been adopted as resolution 2735." "Colleagues, the cease-fire deal would pave the way toward an enduring cessation of hostilities and a better future for all. As President Biden acknowledged just the other day, the Palestinian people have endured sheer hell in this war started by Hamas. There's an opportunity to chart a different course."

Fourteen of the 15 members on the U.N. Security Council, with Russia abstaining, voted in favor of adopting a proposal calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. Neither Israel nor Hamas has formally embraced the plan.CreditCredit...Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The resolution adopted by the Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire and negotiations on reaching a permanent end to fighting, and said that if those talks take longer than six weeks, the temporary truce would be extended. That could lead to a longer pause in the war, one that some Israeli leaders have been loath to accept.

Mr. Blinken emphasized that "the commitment in agreeing to the proposal is to seek that enduring cease-fire." He added: "But that has to be negotiated."

Along with the immediate cease-fire, the first phase of the three-phase agreement calls for the release of some hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for a larger number of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in the territory.

The second phase calls for a permanent cease-fire with the agreement of both parties, the release of the remaining living hostages, and a full withdrawal of Israel's military. The third phase would consist of a multiyear reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of deceased hostages.

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In a photo released by the Hamas media office on Tuesday, the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and Ziyad al-Nakhalah, the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in exile, are said to be discussing the cease-fire proposal.Credit...Hamas Media Office, via Reuters

Hamas officials on Tuesday said they had delivered to mediators in Qatar and Egypt a response to a cease-fire proposal endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. The response proposed amendments to the deal that may prove to be further stumbling blocks to an agreement.

An Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said the Israeli negotiating team had received a copy of Hamas's response through Qatari and Egyptian mediators. The official characterized the response as a rejection of the deal presented by President Biden, which the Security Council endorsed in a vote on Monday.

The Hamas counterproposal came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was in the Middle East, meeting with top officials in Israel, Egypt and Jordan in an effort to advance the U.N.-backed proposal. Mr. Blinken flew to Qatar on Wednesday for meetings with officials there. Qatar and Egypt have acted as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which do not communicate directly with each other.

John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday that the U.S. had received Hamas's response and was "evaluating it." A senior U.S. official said Mr. Blinken had dispatched two aides to meet in Jordan with the head of Egyptian intelligence to review the Hamas counterproposal.

Another official with knowledge of the talks, who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy, said the Hamas response proposed firm timetables for not only a short-term truce but a permanent one, and for a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

This differs from the three-phase deal Israel proposed, that the Security Council endorsed on Monday and that President Biden has been pushing. That plan calls for an immediate cease-fire in the first phase as negotiators hammer out a plan for a permanent end to fighting in the second phase. If talks on a permanent end to hostilities take longer than six weeks, the temporary truce would be extended, according to the original proposal.

Israel has said previously that it will not agree to a deal that doesn't allow it to eradicate Hamas or would force what it considers a premature end to the war, and that the proposal on the table enables it to achieve all its war aims, including the destruction of Hamas's governing and military capabilities.

On Tuesday, a second Israeli official said that Israel could not support the U.N. Security Council resolution because it includes an "unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-state solution" in which an independent Palestinian state is created alongside Israel, and of unifying Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.

The United States supports the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, but Israel does not, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has effectively ruled out the return of the Palestinian Authority, which administers part of the West Bank, to Gaza.

Erica L. Green and Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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Smoke billowing during an Israeli bombardment on the southern Lebanese border village of Khiam on June 8.Credit...Rabih Daher/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Extinguishing a fire on Sunday ignited after rockets launched from Lebanon landed in the Golan Heights, a strategic area annexed by Israel in a move not recognized by most of the world.Credit...Jalaa Marey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israeli forces killed a senior Hezbollah commander in a strike in southern Lebanon late Tuesday, stoking concerns about an escalation of the conflict on another Israeli front.

In response, Hezbollah fired one of its heaviest rocket barrages yet into Israel on Wednesday, targeting military bases and arms factories.

The commander, Taleb Abdallah, also known as Abu Taleb, was among the highest-ranking Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon to have been killed in the eight-month-long conflict, according to a senior Lebanese intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.

In an apparent nod to Mr. Abdallah's seniority, Hezbollah made the rare move of releasing a photo of him alongside Wissam Hassan al-Tawil, a high-ranking commander in the group's Radwan unit, who was killed in a strike in January.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it had struck a Hezbollah command and control center, killing Mr. Abdallah and three other Hezbollah fighters. It called Mr. Abdallah one of Hezbollah's top commanders in southern Lebanon.

Israeli army radio said on Wednesday that around 150 rockets had been launched into northern Israel in an apparent response, with Hezbollah claiming attacks on a string of military bases.

Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese militia and political movement backed by Iran, and Israel have bombarded each other across the border for much of the past eight months, with more than 150,000 people on both sides of the boundary forced to flee their homes. But the intensity of the attacks has increased this month amid threats by Israeli officials at the highest levels to pursue further military action.

Israel has been targeting Hezbollah commanders with the aim of pushing the group north of the Litani River in Lebanon, hoping to prevent cross-border attacks and to eventually allow Israeli civilians displaced by the fighting to return to their homes. Some experts have expressed skepticism about whether the targeted killings can accomplish this aim.

Last week, during a visit to northern Israel after a barrage of Hezbollah rockets set off wildfires that blazed for days, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a threat of "very intense action" to "restore security to the north."

In a sign of the heightening conflict, Israel this week struck deeper into Lebanon than it had since the war in Gaza began, targeting an area along the country's northeastern border with Syria.

"Whoever thinks he can hurt us and we will respond by sitting on our hands is making a big mistake," Mr. Netanyahu said, according to the Israeli government.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah for the first time has begun targeting Israel's vaunted Iron Dome missile-defense system.

Answering calls by Hamas to open a second front a day after its deadly assault on Israel, Hezbollah launched attacks into Israel on Oct. 8. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said that his group is trying to pin Israel's troops along the border and limit its capacity to attack Hamas in Gaza.

Hezbollah says that more than 300 fighters have been killed in the most recent round of fighting with Israel. The United Nations says that about 80 Lebanese civilians have died. In Israel, the authorities say that 19 security personnel and at least eight civilians have been killed.

Euan Ward and Matthew Mpoke Bigg contributed reporting.

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A damaged building targeted by Israeli forces during a raid Tuesday in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.Credit...Raneen Sawafta/Reuters

An Israeli military raid Tuesday in the Israeli-occupied West Bank killed several Palestinians.

Israel said four people were killed and that all were Hamas militants. The Palestinian Authority said six Palestinians were killed, including a teenager. It did not address whether any of the people killed were members of Hamas.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it encircled a building that it believed was being used by Hamas fighters in the village of Kafr Dan, near the city of Jenin. An Israeli Air Force helicopter struck the structure from above, and several weapons were confiscated, including three M 16 rifles and ammunition, the statement said.

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Israel has stepped up raids in the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza. Credit...Raneen Sawafta/Reuters

Israel has stepped up attacks in the West Bank since launching a full-scale war in Gaza after the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack killed some 1,200 people and captured more than 250 hostages, according to the Israeli authorities. Israel has stepped up its incursions into Jenin, which houses one of the oldest refugee settlements in the West Bank and has long been considered a bastion of resistance against the Israeli occupation.

A total of 543 Palestinians, including 133 children, have been killed in the West Bank since the war began, according to the latest figures released by Palestinian health authorities.

A senior Hamas official, Abdel Hakim Henini, condemned the raid in a statement on the group's official Telegram channel.

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Yahya Sinwar, center, Hamas's leader in Gaza, in Gaza City last year.Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

U.S. attempts to pressure Hamas to agree to a cease-fire proposal newly backed by the U.N. Security Council have put a spotlight on the armed group's leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who is believed to have remained in hiding in the enclave throughout the war and is a pivotal voice in the group's decision-making.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Tuesday in Tel Aviv, during a visit to several countries in the Middle East, that the onus was now on Mr. Sinwar to accept the new cease-fire proposal, which the United States brought to a successful Security Council vote on Monday. Rejecting the deal, Mr. Blinken said, would put Mr. Sinwar's political interests ahead of those of civilians.

Hamas could be "looking after one guy," Mr. Blinken said, referring to Mr. Sinwar.

Mr. Sinwar was an architect of the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, in which around 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken hostage. American and Israeli officials who spent months assessing his motivations say that Mr. Sinwar knew the incursion would provoke an Israeli military response that would kill many civilians, but he reasoned that was a price worth paying to upend the status quo with Israel.

After Hamas agreed to a brief cease-fire late last year, during which more than 100 hostages in Gaza and many more Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons were exchanged, Mr. Sinwar has held out against any further cease-fire deals. More than 36,000 people have been killed in Gaza during the eight months of war, and around 80,000 people have been injured, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, which says that the majority of the dead are women, children and older people.

Mr. Sinwar's position is not the only question mark in the negotiations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel also has not said in public that he accepted the proposal the Security Council has endorsed and is under pressure from his far-right coalition partners not to end the war until Hamas is destroyed. Mr. Blinken said on Tuesday that Mr. Netanyahu had "reaffirmed" his commitment to the plan in private talks in Jerusalem.

U.S. officials said last month that Mr. Sinwar was most likely living in tunnels beneath Khan Younis, a city in southern Gaza that has been devastated by Israeli airstrikes and fighting. Hamas has constructed a network of tunnels beneath Gaza to shield the group from Israeli surveillance and attack.

Israeli officials have said that killing Mr. Sinwar is a top priority, no matter how long it takes; he has not been seen in public since Oct. 7. He has also not released audio and video messages.

That public silence has made it difficult to determine his thinking and the extent to which he retains control of Hamas, some of whose political leaders are based in Qatar. But Israeli and American officials say Mr. Sinwar remains central to the group's decision making.

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Ismail Haniyeh, center, one of the most senior leaders of Hamas, and Mr. Sinwar, right, in Gaza City in 2019. Mr. Sinwar has been central to Hamas's behind-the-scenes decision to hold out for a permanent cease-fire, American and Israeli officials say.Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The American and Israeli intelligence agencies that have assessed Mr. Sinwar's motivations, according to people briefed on the intelligence, have concluded that he is primarily motivated by a desire to take revenge on Israel and to weaken it. The well-being of the Palestinian people or the establishment of a Palestinian state, the intelligence analysts say, appears to be secondary.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Mr. Sinwar had resisted pressure to agree to a deal in recent months, calculating that a continuation of the war would work to his political advantage even at the cost of rising casualties among Palestinian civilians.

The article cited dozens of messages reviewed by the Journal that it said Mr. Sinwar had transmitted to cease-fire negotiators, Hamas compatriots outside Gaza and others. It was not possible to authenticate the messages independently.

"We have the Israelis right where we want them," Mr. Sinwar said in one of the messages, identified as a recent one to Hamas officials who were seeking to broker an agreement with Qatari and Egyptian officials.

In another message cited by The Journal, Mr. Sinwar referred to a past war in which a weaker force prevailed over a more powerful adversary: an uprising in Algeria, which secured Algeria's independence in 1962 at the cost of at least 400,000 Algerian and 35,000 French lives. That message called the losses "necessary sacrifices."

The Journal report quoted what it said was a Sinwar letter, dated April 11, to the overall political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, after three of Mr. Haniyeh's adult sons were killed by an Israeli airstrike, in which he said that their deaths and those of other Palestinians would "infuse life into the veins of this nation."

Mr. Sinwar was imprisoned for murdering Palestinians whom he accused of apostasy or collaborating with Israel, according to Israeli court records from 1989. He was released in 2011, along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians, in exchange for one Israeli soldier captured by Hamas. Six years later, Mr. Sinwar was elected leader of Hamas in Gaza.

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A Palestinian medic carrying an injured child Saturday at a hospital during an Israeli military operation in the town of Nuseirat in central Gaza.Credit...Mohammed Saber/EPA, via Shutterstock

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday that it was "profoundly shocked" by the impact on civilians of Israel's raid to free four hostages, adding that actions by both Hamas and Israel may be war crimes.

Gazans have described intense bombardment during the operation on Saturday in a crowded area of central Gaza, in which more than 200 Palestinians were killed, according to local health officials.

"The manner in which the raid was conducted in such a densely populated area seriously calls into question" whether the laws of war were respected by Israel's forces, a U.N. spokesman, Jeremy Laurence, said in a statement.

Amir Weissbrod, a deputy director general at Israel's Foreign Ministry who oversees relationships with U.N. agencies, responded on social media to the statement by calling it "another moral bankruptcy" by the United Nations. He accused the office of "encouraging terrorists."

The office also said it was "deeply distressed" that armed groups in Gaza held hostages in violation of international law, particularly in areas where many people are living, "putting the lives of Palestinian civilians, as well as the hostages themselves, at added risk from the hostilities." Hamas did not immediately respond to the statement.

"All these actions, by both parties, may amount to war crimes," Mr. Laurence said.

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.

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Displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis, Gaza, welcomed the cease-fire proposal hoping that it would lead to the end of the war.CreditCredit...Reuters

Some Palestinians in Gaza welcomed the United Nations resolution endorsing a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal, even as some remained skeptical it would be implemented.

Abdullah Al Nems, a 43-year-old taxi driver from Rafah now sheltering in Khan Younis, said he hoped that the resolution would lead to an end to deadly Israeli airstrikes so that his family could see whether their home was still standing; enable his children to sleep; and simply allow them all access to bathrooms, clean water and electricity.

"We don't want bombardment and humiliation anymore," he said.

But he said he was still worried that the cease-fire would not come into effect, blaming Hamas and Israel for prolonging the war while Gazans suffered.

"They have been killing us slowly and wasting time," he said.

The resolution adopted by the Security Council on Monday called for an immediate cease-fire and negotiations to reach a permanent end to the fighting; if those talks take longer than six weeks, the temporary truce would be extended. Both Israel and Hamas emphasized on Tuesday that they were open to the plan, even as it remained unclear whether either would formally embrace it.

After eight months of war, some Palestinians questioned how meaningful the new resolution would be. The Security Council agreed in March to one calling for an immediate cease-fire, with the United States abstaining. That broke a five-month impasse during which the United States vetoed three calls for a halt to the fighting. But the March resolution provided little immediate momentum for a deal.

Though the resolution that passed Monday may put pressure on Hamas and Israel, the United Nations is not itself involved in the cease-fire talks and cannot force the two sides to agree to a deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said he will not accept any deal that ends the war before Hamas is destroyed.

"We have been waiting for a resolution like this," Amjad Fayez Shtawi, a Palestinian from Gaza City who has been displaced multiple times, told the Reuters news agency from his shelter in Khan Younis. Yearning to return to normal daily life rather than constantly hunting for safety and necessities, he said resolution should be "immediately implemented, without procrastination, because this is a humanitarian demand."

And Yaser Shaban, a 57-year-old father of four from Gaza City, said: "I'm not optimistic at all about the United Nations resolution," adding, "I lost count of U.N. resolutions about Palestine that Israel has ignored, so why will this one be special?"

Mr. Shaban said he was worried that there were no guarantees that the proposed agreement could even end the war.

"If this war stops now without a final compromise, who can assure us that it will not resume in the future?" he said.

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Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid brought in through a U.S.-built pier being stormed in May.Credit...Abdel Kareem Hana/Associated Press

The United States will provide an additional $404 million in humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the wider Middle East, the State Department announced on Tuesday. That would bring the total American contribution since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel to more than $674 million.

The money "will provide essential support to vulnerable Palestinians," the department said in a statement. The aid will include food, safe drinking water, health care, protection, education, shelter and psychosocial support, the department said.

The announcement came after the Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke in Jordan at a conference on the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Blinken reiterated his call for a cease-fire agreement to halt the war, calling it "the single most effective step we can take to address the urgent humanitarian challenge in Gaza."

Making his latest wartime visit to the Middle East, Mr. Blinken has sought repeatedly to put pressure on Hamas to accept a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal that President Biden made public on May 31. While Hamas has not formally accepted the deal, neither has Israel.

"My primary and first message today to every government, to every multilateral institution, to every humanitarian organization that wants to relieve the massive suffering in Gaza: Get Hamas to take the deal. Press them publicly. Press them privately," he said.

The conference, held near the Dead Sea, was co-hosted by Jordan, Egypt and the United Nations, and it was attended by senior officials from countries that included Pakistan, Iraq and Slovenia.

"I think we all know there is no time to waste, given the hell that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are enduring every single day," Mr. Blinken said.

— Michael Crowley Traveling with the secretary of state

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Palestinians evacuating after Israeli military operations in central Gaza on Saturday.Credit...Bashar Taleb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council on Monday endorsed a cease-fire plan for the Gaza Strip that is backed by the United States, adding weight to an international effort to end the eight-month war. Neither Israel nor Hamas has publicly accepted the plan, but Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday held talks in the region to press for its adoption.

Here's a look at how the cease-fire would work, and at some of the areas of dispute between the warring parties.

The plan would unfold in three phases.

Under phase one, there would be a six-week cease-fire and the release of hostages who are older or wounded, or who are women, as well as the return of the remains of some people who died in Gaza while in captivity. In exchange, Palestinian prisoners would be released from Israeli jails.

Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas of Gaza, and more humanitarian aid would be distributed in the enclave. Civilians, most of whom have been displaced, would be free to return to their homes, including in northern Gaza, an area devastated by Israeli airstrikes and fighting.

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The U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday.Credit...Angela Weiss/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As all of this happens, talks over a permanent cease-fire would continue, with the goal of reaching phase two: the full withdrawal of Israel's military, the return of all hostages and the freeing of more Palestinian prisoners.

In phase three, the bodies of all the remaining hostages who had died would be returned to Israel, and the reconstruction of Gaza would begin.

Crucially, the cease-fire would be extended after the initial six weeks if no agreement on phase two had been reached, according to a report of the Security Council's proceedings on the website of the United Nations. In this way, the plan could, in theory, lead to an end to hostilities.

The resolution passed by the Security Council urges both Israel and Hamas to implement the terms of the plan fully "without delay and without condition." It summarizes the plan and puts an emphasis on the provision that "if negotiations take longer than six weeks for phase one, the cease-fire will continue as long as negotiations continue."

The Council alone can't force anyone to adopt the plan, and the United Nations is not involved in the cease-fire talks. But the passage of the resolution — 14 members of the Council approved it, and one abstained — increases pressure on both sides to make a deal and potentially strengthens Washington's hand.

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Israeli military vehicles positioned last month in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip.Credit...Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Many details of the plan remain unresolved, not least the length of the cease-fire and the future role of Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel will fight until Hamas's governing and military capabilities are destroyed. An Israeli government official on Tuesday appeared to offer a cautious welcome to the proposal, saying it would enable the government to achieve its ends.

"Israel will not end the war before achieving all its war objectives," the official said, adding that these include eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza cannot threaten Israel.

Talks over phases two and three of the plan would, as laid out, appear to involve Hamas. This implies that the armed group would retain some measure of control in Gaza, something Mr. Netanyahu says is a red line. He has also ruled out a governing role for the Palestinian Authority, a fierce Hamas rival that has limited governing powers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Israeli prime minister is facing pressure from the United States and other allies to end the war, but two far-right partners in his governing coalition have threatened to bring down his government should Israel agree to a deal that would end the war without eliminating Hamas.

Many Gazans say they are desperate for an end to the war, but analysts say that Hamas is not responsive to the wishes of the enclave's civilians. Political experts say that the group's leaders, including Yahya Sinwar, its top leader in Gaza, may be in no hurry to end the conflict. For one thing, they know that their leverage will diminish once they agree to release the hostages.

The group's negotiators have said that they would not approve an agreement that does not provide for a permanent cease-fire, a total withdrawal of Israeli troops and a "serious and real deal" to exchange Palestinian prisoners for hostages.

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Families and supporters of Israeli hostages in Tel Aviv during a visit by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Tuesday.Credit...Leo Correa/Associated Press

A senior Hamas official, Husam Badran, said that the group had "dealt positively" with the new proposal despite "no clear and public stance" from the Israeli government. And he pushed back on Secretary of State Blinken's statement that the onus of accepting the plan was on Hamas. Mr. Netanyahu is "the sole obstacle" to an agreement to end the war, Mr. Badran said in a text message.

In the immediate term, Mr. Blinken is pressing on with regional talks aimed at securing assent for the plan. On Wednesday he is set to go to Qatar, which has played a key role as a mediator.

So far it appears that both sides have seen value in offering tentative support to the proposal without definitively backing it and, at the same time, accusing the other side of dragging its feet.

A cease-fire could enable momentum to build toward an end to the war, but it appears unlikely that talks to reach phase two of the plan could be resolved quickly.

Adam Rasgon and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting

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Israeli soldiers carried the coffin a soldier killed in Rafah, during a funeral at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, on Tuesday.Credit...Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Israeli military said Tuesday that four Israeli soldiers had been killed and several more wounded after militants blew up a building where the troops were operating in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Some of the soldiers were in critical condition after the attack on Monday, the military said. Kan, Israel's public broadcaster, said that five soldiers had been hospitalized, and that two were in intensive care.

The Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing, said in a statement that it had booby-trapped the building where the soldiers were operating. "Our fighters were able to blow up a house rigged with explosives where Zionist forces had fortified themselves inside," it said.

The apparent ambush targeted an Israeli reconnaissance unit that was scouting what the soldiers thought was a tunnel shaft inside a three-story building, according to Kan. Israeli forces in Gaza have been focusing on destroying tunnels used by Hamas militants.

After the explosives were detonated, Hamas forces attacked with mortar fire as Israeli forces tried to evacuate the dead and wounded, according to both the militant group and the Israeli military.

Fighting in Rafah has raged on and off since early May, when Israeli soldiers moved into the southern city despite strong opposition from the international community. For months, Rafah had housed more than half the residents of Gaza. Israeli forces had directed people to take shelter there from fighting elsewhere in the territory.

Since the Israeli incursion into Rafah, many displaced Palestinians have fled to central Gaza, which in turn has seen clashes and heavy bombardment since Israel announced new military operations there last week. On Saturday, more than 200 Gazans were killed, according to health authorities, in the central city of Nuseirat during an Israeli military operation that freed four Israeli hostages.

In the eight months since Israel launched its offensive in Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks, a total of 298 of its soldiers have been killed, according to the Israeli military. The toll has been many times higher for Gazans: Local health authorities say more than 36,000 people have been killed, a tally that does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Myra Noveck contributed reporting.

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Palestinians in the West Bank Are Living in the Shadow of the War in Gaza

Since the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, Israel has tightened its grip on the occupied West Bank. Two Palestinians describe how they have been impacted - and their worries for the future.

In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians live in the shadow of the ongoing war in Gaza. For them, this has meant increased raids and arrests, tightening security restrictions, settler violence and economic turmoil. We spent time with two Palestinians whose lives and livelihoods are being reshaped by the war and who worry that some of these changes may be long lasting. 29-year-old taxi driver and tour guide Laith Al-Muti now waits all day here at one of the Israeli-controlled checkpoints into Bethlehem. But these days, barely any visitors come through. Thirteen miles away in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron, Wijdan Ziadeh's life is also at a standstill. The site of an Israeli settlement, Palestinians in the area say their movement, limited before the war, has felt even more restricted since Oct. 7. Control over security in Hebron is divided into two zones. H1 is managed by the Palestinian Authority and H2, where Ziadeh lives, is managed by the Israeli military. The Israeli military told The Times that security measures have increased in the West Bank as part of a response to terrorist operatives, including Hamas, and that their forces are in Tel Rumeida to help ensure the safety of all residents. But Ziadeh lives in fear of scenes of settler aggression like this one captured by a nearby Palestinian resident. Ziadeh says since the war, her settler neighbors have become even more aggressive towards her and her two sons. Throughout the West Bank, incidents of settler violence against Palestinians jumped in the aftermath of Oct. 7, according to the U.N., who have recorded nearly 950 attacks as of June 2024. Palestinians in the area say that the Israeli military are there to protect the settlers and that settler violence against Palestinians largely goes unpunished, a decades-long pattern detailed in a recent Times investigation. Back in Bethlehem, Laith also fears for the future. Sites he used to frequent with tourists, like the Church of the Nativity, now sit empty. Al-Muti and Ziadeh say they don't know what's next for them or for others in the West Bank.

Since the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, Israel has tightened its grip on the occupied West Bank. Two Palestinians describe how they have been impacted - and their worries for the future.CreditCredit...Ayman Abu Ramouz for The New York Times

As the war in Gaza enters its eighth month, Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank continue to face onerous restrictions, economic difficulties and an increased military presence — changes that some worry may become the new normal.

Throughout the West Bank, daily life — restricted before Oct. 7 — has been further complicated by myriad factors. These include regular raids and arrests by Israeli forces, emboldened settlers and regulations that have hampered the economy, such as the cancellation of permits to work in Israel and an increase in internal checkpoints and roadblocks, complicating movement throughout the territory.

The Israeli military said there had been a "significant increase" in terrorist attacks in the West Bank since the beginning of the war and told The New York Times that arrests of suspected "terrorist operatives," as well as the strategic placement of security forces, were necessary "to improve the safety of all residents of the sector."

We spent time with two Palestinians in the West Bank to learn how they have been affected by these changes.

In Bethlehem, a city whose economy is largely dependent on tourism, few are arriving to visit sites like the Church of the Nativity, the supposed birthplace of Jesus.

Laith Al-Muti, 29, a local tour guide and taxi driver, spends his days waiting at the main checkpoint from Jerusalem into Bethlehem, hoping to attract local fares. Al-Muti and other drivers said they were making a fraction of what they earned before the war.

"I don't know for how long people will have energy," said Al-Muti. "I might be making 20 or 40 shekels, (roughly $5-$11) working in my taxi, but some people haven't earned one shekel in seven months."

Thirteen miles away in the Tel Rumeida area of Hebron, Widjan Ziadeh, 56, a widow, and her sons live in fear.

Hebron is divided into two zones: H1, where security is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and H2, where security is controlled by the Israeli military.

Tel Rumeida, located in H2, is surrounded by Israeli-run checkpoints. Since the war, Palestinians in the area said they had been subject to increased restrictions and difficulties.

Tel Rumeida, the site of an Israeli settlement, has some who are violent and aggressive, according to Palestinians in the area, and tensions have run high for decades.

Ziadeh said her son Faris, 20, had nearly lost all vision in one eye following a settler attack in 2022, but the family never filed a criminal complaint to the Israeli authorities because of limited expectations of justice.

For now, Ziadeh is determined to stay and keep her house from being taken over by settlers.

"We won't leave. This is our land and we'll stay here," she said. "We'll live and die in suffering."

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