'The ball is in Hamas' court': US urges militants to accept latest cease-fire plan

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Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war for Tuesday, April 9. For the latest news on the conflict in the Middle East view our file for Wednesday, April 10.

Israel's War Cabinet met Tuesday to discuss the latest U.S. proposal for a cease-fire after Hamas said it was reviewing the plan but accused Israel of remaining "intransigent" and failing to respond to the demands of the Palestinian people.

Hamas wants Israel to withdraw all forces from Gaza and allow displaced people to return to their homes.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the latest proposal "is very serious" and should be accepted by Hamas.

"I think the fact that it continues to not say yes is a reflection of what it really thinks about the people of Gaza, which is not much at all," Blinken said at a news conference in Washington. "The ball is in Hamas' court, the world is watching to see what it does."

The Wall Street Journal, citing officials helping to broker the deal, said the proposal calls for a six-week cease-fire and release of 40 of more than 100 militant-held hostages in exchange for 900 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. The Journal said 100 of the Palestinians who would be freed are serving long sentences on terrorism-related charges.

But the Journal said gaps remain over key aspects of any potential deal, including how and when Palestinians displaced by the war would be allowed to return to northern Gaza, the identities of the Palestinian prisoners to be released and whether the initial six-week cease-fire could become permanent.

The Israeli military says multiple Hamas battalions remain entrenched in Rafah and must be removed for Hamas to be defeated. Israel has been bombing Rafah for weeks, but President Joe Biden and numerous other world leaders have urged Israel not to invade the city, fearing massive civilian death tolls. Gaza officials say more than 33,000 Palestinians have died since the war began Oct. 7 when Hamas-led militants crashed across the Israeli border, killing 1,200 and taking more than 250 hostages.

"We are constantly working to achieve our goals, first and foremost the release of all our hostages and achieving a complete victory over Hamas," Prime Minister Benjamein Netanyahu said. "This victory requires entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen − there is a date."

A Palestinian vendor carries a bucket with roses at an open market in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
A Palestinian vendor carries a bucket with roses at an open market in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 9, 2024, ahead of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.


∎ U.S. officials "don't have evidence" that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

∎ Israel’s actions in Gaza have not altered the British government's position allowing the export of arms to the Israeli military, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron said. "As ever, we will keep the position under review,” he said.

∎ The British government has faced growing calls to halt arms sales to Israel, including last week from London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

∎ Turkey issued trade restrictions on dozens of Israeli products Tuesday, saying they would remain in place until Israel accepts a cease-fire and allowed more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

30,000-plus lives lost: Visualizing the death and destruction of Israel's war in Gaza

VP Harris meets with families of hostages

Vice President Kamala Harris met Tuesday with relatives of American hostages being held in Gaza. The families met with national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday.

According to a White House statement, Harris told the families that she and Biden "have no higher priority than reuniting the hostages with their loved ones" and they are committed to bringing home the remains of the deceased. Harris also provided an update on the effort to secure the hostages' release and establish a ceasefire in Gaza, the White House said.

Rachel Goldberg, whose son Hersh Goldberg-Polin was among those taken on Oct. 7, told reporters the meeting was "very productive" and thanked the vice president for spending time with their families.

She said they discussed that it is possible to believe, as she said the families do, "that it is horrible that innocent civilians in Gaza are suffering, and at the same time you can also know that it is horrible and against international law for hostages to be held against their will."

Jonathan Dekel-Chen, the father of hostage Sagui Dekel-Chen, said the world is waiting for Hamas "to get to yes" on an agreement to release the hostages. He echoed Blinken's earlier comment that it is up to the group to agree to a deal. "It's clear to us that the Biden administration, and wall-to-wall in Congress, there is absolute, absolute support for getting all of the hostages home," he said. "We are completely appreciative."

Israel buying 40,000 tents to house Rafah evacuees

Israel is purchasing 40,000 tents to prepare for the evacuation of Rafah after a defiant Netanyahu announced a date has been set for the globally condemned invasion of the southern Gaza city. Israeli officials told multiple news outlets, including the Jerusalem Post, the tents will house some of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who will be evacuated from the city, where more than 1 million have sought shelter after fleeing devastating attacks across northern and central Gaza.

"I have not yet seen a credible and executable plan to move people that has any level of detail about how you not only house, feed and provide medicine for those innocent civilians, but also how you deal with things like sanitation, water and other basic services. We have not seen that," Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, said at a Tuesday afternoon briefing.

Sullivan maintained that the Biden administration believes there are "better ways to go after Hamas" that the Biden administration has presented to the Israeli government.

Blinken said earlier in the day that the U.S. has not been told the date for Israel's Rafah operation. He said the Biden administration continues to talk to Israel about alternatives to an invasion, and if it goes forward, removing civilians from harm's way.

"The commitments that have been made, and the initial steps to implement those commitments are positive, but a lot more needs to happen to make sure people in Gaza have what they need," Blinken said.

US reviewing Israeli conclusions in World Central Kitchen tragedy

The U.S is reviewing the conclusions of the investigation Israel conducted into the attack on a humanitarian aid convoy that killed seven people last week, Blinken said. The Israel military said a series of mistakes led to the accidental attack on volunteers for celebrity chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen. Two officers were removed from command positions days after the drone strikes. Blinken said Israel has taken the first steps toward accountability.

"We want to make sure that, again, the investigation produces real change that can better ensure the security and safety of humanitarian workers," Blinken said.

Sullivan said that the informal review is ongoing and did not provide a projected completion date.

Deadly famine in Gaza would 'accelerate violence,' US defense secretary warns

A deadly famine in Gaza would likely "accelerate violence" and ensure a long-term conflict, Austin told the Senate committee. Austin said the U.S. is doing 'everything we can" to encourage Israel to allow more humanitarian assistance into the enclave. Aid agencies, however, have repeatedly complained that Israel is not ensuring enough access for food, medicine and other needed humanitarian supplies, joining European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in accusing Israel of using starvation as a "weapon of war."

Israel aid Tuesday that aid is moving into Gaza more quickly, but the United Nations says it is still much less than needed to meet humanitarian needs. Israel said 419 trucks - the highest since the conflict began - entered on Monday, though the Red Crescent and U.N. gave much lower figures. The U.N. said many were only half full because of Israeli inspection rules.

UN to consider Palestinian bid for membership

The U.N. Security Council agreed Monday to consider the Palestinian application for full membership in the United Nations, essentially recognizing Palestinian statehood. A similar application failed in 2011, although Palestine was later granted observer status.

"All we ask for is to take our rightful place among the community of nations," Palestinian Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour said. "To be treated as equals to other nations and states. To live in freedom and dignity, in peace and security, in our ancestral land."

Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan said "granting the Palestinian statehood is not only a blatant violation of the UN Charter, it also violates the fundamental principle that everyone can understand of reaching a lasting solution at the negotiating table."

Malta Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, serving as president of the council this month, said the admissions committee will meet again on the issue Thursday. But the U.S. could ultimately veto the application. The U.S. position has been that full U.N. membership should come only after a long-term peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel withdraws most troops from Gaza: Hamas, Israel to engage in talks

US seizes Iranian guns, ships them to Ukraine

The U.S. military has transferred thousands of small arms to Ukraine that were seized while being shipped from Iran to Yemeni rebels, U.S. Central Command said in a statement Tuesday. Over 5,000 AK-47s, machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG-7s and over 500,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition were sent to Ukraine. The equipment, seized from 2021 to 2023, was bound for Houthi forces that control parts of Yemen and since November have been attacking ships in the Red Sea region, disrupting supply chains around the world.

"Iran’s support for armed groups threatens international and regional security, our forces, diplomatic personnel and citizens in the region, as well as those of our partners," the statement said. "We will continue to do whatever we can to shed light on and stop Iran’s destabilizing activities."

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel war updates: US urges Hamas to accept new cease-fire deal