This week saw the most promising ceasefire initiative since November as the Israel-Hamas war prepares to enter its fourth month. Here are other major headlines from the conflict from this week:
The Hamas militant group said on Tuesday that it’s reviewing a new proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza that would involve the release of the roughly 130 remaining hostages captured from Israel on Oct. 7. The plan developed from talks in Paris over the weekend between Israel, the U.S., Egypt and Qatar. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel Defense Forces won’t withdraw from Gaza until Hamas is “eradicated.” Hamas has said it will only release the remaining hostages as part of a deal to permanently end the war in Gaza.
At the same time, Reuters reports that about 70 U.S. cities, including Chicago and Seattle, have passed symbolic resolutions, with most calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, while some others have advocated more broadly for peace.
Biden takes action against violent settlers
President Biden issued an executive order on Thursday that imposes financial sanctions and visa bans against four Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been accused of “extremist settler violence” against Palestinians, have forced their displacement and destroyed their property in the occupied territory, according to the order.
“These actions undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution and ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can attain equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom,” Biden said in the order, adding that such violent actions could contribute to wider destabilization in the Middle East.
U.S., U.K. consider options for Palestinian statehood
The State Department is reviewing policy options on possible U.S. and international recognition of a Palestinian state following the Israel-Hamas war, as first reported by Axios, citing two U.S. officials briefed on the matter.
For decades, the U.S. has stressed that an independent Palestinian state should only be achieved through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, according to Axios. But State Department spokesman Matt Miller said the establishment of a Palestinian state has been U.S. policy for quite some time.
“We are actively pursuing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with real security guarantees for Israel, because we do believe that is the best way to bring about lasting peace and security for Israel, for Palestinians and for the region," Miller told reporters on Wednesday.
The U.K. is also considering an official recognition of Palestine as an independent state, but it wouldn’t happen while Hamas remains in Gaza. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told reporters Thursday that the decision “can’t come at the start of the process, but it doesn’t have to be the very end of the process.”
United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) funding controversy
The head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday that halting funds to UNRWA would have “catastrophic consequences” for the Palestinian people in war-torn Gaza. The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency provides food, shelter and schools to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
The U.S., U.K. and other western nations froze funding to the U.N. agency after Israel alleged last week that over a dozen UNRWA employees in Gaza took part in the Oct. 7 deadly attacks on Israel by Hamas militants. The U.N. has since fired several employees and is conducting an ongoing investigation into the allegations.