CAIRO — Israel and Hamas on Monday gave cool public receptions to an Egyptian proposal to end their bitter war. But the longstanding enemies stopped short of rejecting the plan altogether, raising the possibility of a new round of diplomacy to halt a devastating Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian plan calls for a phased hostage release and the formation of a Palestinian government of experts to administer the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, according to a senior Egyptian official and a European diplomat familiar with the proposal.
The Egyptian official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposal, said the details were worked out with the Gulf nation of Qatar and presented to Israel, Hamas, the United States and European governments. Egypt and Qatar both mediate between Israel and Hamas, while the U.S. is Israel’s closest ally and a key power in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not comment directly on the proposal. But speaking to members of his Likud Party, he said he was determined to press ahead with Israel’s offensive, launched in response to an Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took 240 others hostage.
Hamas has continued to fire rockets into Israel throughout the fighting. Late Monday, it launched a barrage of rockets, triggering air raid sirens in the southern city of Ashkelon. AP video showed what appeared to be several interceptions by Israel’s rocket defense system. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
The Egyptian proposal falls short of Israel’s declared goal of crushing Hamas. It also appears to be at odds with Israel’s insistence on maintaining military control over Gaza for an extended period after the war. But Netanyahu faces heavy domestic pressure to reach a deal to bring home the more than 100 Israeli hostages who remain in captivity in Gaza.
As he vowed to continue the war during a speech in parliament, relatives of the hostages interrupted him and called for their immediate return. “Now! Now!” they shouted.
The rising death toll of Israeli soldiers from the ground operation also threatens to undermine public support for the war.
Netanyahu’s War Cabinet was expected to meet late Monday. It was unclear if they would discuss the Egyptian proposal.
Hamas did not officially react to the proposal. But it is unclear if Hamas would agree to relinquish power after controlling Gaza for the past 16 years.