Israelis and Palestinians hopeful but cautious about proposed ceasefire

A proposed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has raised hopes that the eight-month-long fighting will soon end. Displaced Palestinians are desperate to return to their homes and rebuild, while Israelis yearn for the release of dozens of people held captive by the armed Palestinian group.

The US-backed proposal is the latest serious attempt to end the war in Gaza, and although it still faces significant hurdles, negotiations aimed at bringing it to a successful conclusion are ongoing.

But hopes for a ceasefire have already been dashed, and both Palestinians and Israelis are set to be disappointed. Hamas is committed to ending the war, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy the armed group before the fighting stops.

Here’s a look at the hopes, fears and expectations of some in the region as the parties consider a deal:

“We want solutions”

The war has displaced 80% of Gaza’s population, rendered much of the urban landscape uninhabitable and caused widespread starvation.

“We want a solution. We want to return home. We are tired of this life,” said Salama Abu al-Kumbuz, a displaced person sheltering in the central Gaza city of Deir al-Balah.

More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting that began with a Hamas cross-border attack on October 7, killing 1,200 people in Israel. Most Palestinians in Gaza have lost at least one family member. Some have lost dozens.

The war and multiple failed attempts to end it have deepened despair in the region, exacerbated by persistent insecurity, troubling uncertainty about the future and, for some, the boredom of a life suspended by fighting.

Some people have lost hope in the talks.

“They negotiated a lot but to no avail,” said Ataf Abdel Bari, who was also taking refuge in Deir al-Balah. “We are not their puppets.”

Hostages’ families want a deal, but others don’t

In Israel, those most eager for a deal are the families of hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups.

According to Israeli officials, the Hamas-led militants took about 250 people hostage in their assault, and they freed about 100 after a ceasefire in November. About 80 people remain captive, along with the remains of 40 other families who are wondering the fate of their loved ones, many of them with no signs of life for up to eight months.

The families and thousands of their supporters gather weekly to demonstrate in support of the deal, arguing that negotiations are the only way to free the large number of hostages. And polls show that the Israeli public considers their release through a deal a priority.

Shahar Mor Zahiro, whose uncle, 79-year-old Abraham Mundar, is a hostage, fears the deal will fail like previous ones.

“We’ve already had six or seven cycles of hope and despair, hope and despair, but what can we do? We’re holding on to whatever hope we have,” he said.

There is widespread support for the hostage deal, with thousands of people protesting on the streets of Israel every week.

But some among the hostages’ families oppose a deal that leaves Hamas intact.

Eitan Zeliger is the director of the Tikva Forum, which he says represents about 30 families of hostages who oppose the release of their loved ones through a deal to end the war. Instead, they insist that Israel increase military pressure on Hamas to weaken its negotiating position.

“It’s a long, difficult process and hell for many hostage families,” he said. “But the families we’ve been in contact with understand there’s no way to return the hostages without a fight.”

Mothers of soldiers speak out

Following the Hamas offensive, Israeli Jews flocked to the army, which called up hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers to help fight Hamas. But some voices are emerging, including those of soldiers’ mothers, who accuse Netanyahu of prolonging the war to appease members of his far-right coalition and stay in power.

Nurit Felsenthal Berger, whose 21-year-old son has spent much of the war in Gaza, told Israeli army radio on Thursday, “I don’t believe the decision makers.” She said of the proposed deal, “I think we need to stop and we have a historic opportunity here.”

The post-war period is expected to include investigations into government failures before the October 7 attack and possibly new elections at a time when Netanyahu’s popularity has fallen. The military says more than 600 soldiers have been killed.

In past wars, protests by soldiers’ mothers have helped pressure leaders to end the fighting, a movement that has not yet occurred in significant numbers around the war in Gaza.

That’s partly because the fighters have other family members who support continuing the war and oppose a settlement that would leave Hamas alone.

The Gvura Forum, which represents families of some of the soldiers killed during the war, said in a letter to Netanyahu earlier this month that if Israel accepted the proposed deal, it would surrender to Hamas without achieving its war goals.

“We will not accept that our loved ones will serve as a silver platter on which the reign of terror will return to Gaza,” the group wrote.


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