Amid conflicting reports Sunday about a tentative deal to release some of the approximately 240 hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly disagreed about the future of a post-war Gaza Strip.
The American president wrote an op-ed Saturday in The Washington Post stating that “Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution.”
After Israel totally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, Hamas, an internationally designated terrorist group, won the 2006 Palestinian elections. In 2007, it seized total control over Gaza, where it has remained the ruling government ever since. The Palestinian Authority still maintains civil control over much of the West Bank.
Biden also said that the U.S. has proposed how to govern Gaza after the war.
“To start, Gaza must never again be used as a platform for terrorism. There must be no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no reoccupation, no siege or blockade, and no reduction in territory. And after this war is over, the voices of Palestinian people and their aspirations must be at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza,” he wrote.
However, a major difficulty posed in determining the future government of Gaza is that the majority of Palestinians support Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. A poll last week from the Arab World for Research and Development showed that 63% of Gazans extremely or somewhat support Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack while 82% of those in the West Bank do.
Netanyahu did not directly call out Biden during a press conference Saturday but he did address the future of Gaza.
He said that the ruling government of Gaza must not be one that “supports terrorism, pays terrorists and their families, and educates their children to murder Jews and eliminate the State of Israel.”
He added: “Without such a revolution in the future civil administration in Gaza, it would only be a question of time until the terrorism returns and I am not willing to agree to this. There is an additional condition that I set for the day after: The IDF will have complete freedom of action in the Gaza Strip against any threat. Only this way can we assure the demilitarization of Gaza.”
Netanyahu also said there is currently not a deal to release any of the 240 hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, amid reports that some of the captives would be released in exchange for a five-day ceasefire.
“Concerning the hostages, there are many unsubstantiated rumors, many incorrect reports. I would like to make it clear: As of now, there has been no deal. But I want to promise: When there is something to say – we will report to you about it,” Netanyahu said Saturday evening during a press conference.
His conference came as The Washington Post reported that evening that Israel and the United States brokered a tentative agreement with Hamas to release at least 50 women and children in exchange for a five-day pause in the war.
The report stated that a “detailed, six-page set of written terms” for the tentative deal required all parties to freeze military actions for at least five days while 50 or more hostages are initially released in small batches every day. It was unclear how many would be released. The temporary ceasefire was also intended to allow humanitarian assistance from Egypt to enter Gaza.
Qatar, a country well known for hosting terrorists and other radical actors, said Sunday that it is discussing a possible short-term ceasefire in the region alongside European Union Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Borrel, according to Israeli outlet Haaretz.
The hostages have been in captivity since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and killed around 1,200 people, including more than 30 U.S. citizens. Four of the hostages have been released and one was freed by the IDF during its operation in Gaza.
Meanwhile, fighting is heating up in Gaza and on the north, as the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday it located 35 tunnels in Gaza and that multiple launches from Lebanon were made toward Israel.