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Could October 7 happen now? The question at the heart of Biden’s ceasefire plan

US President Biden says a new peace plan can work because Hamas is no longer capable of a mass attack like the one that started the Gaza War on October 7.
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Man in military gear with Hamas headband and balaclava and large machine gun pointed at the gamera

A Hamas fighter at a military parade in Gaza in July 2023 (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images).

Published: 4 June 2024

Last updated: 4 June 2024

On Friday US President Joe Biden announced an Israeli plan to end the war in Gaza and urged Hamas to take it up. The proposal, endorsed by Israel's war cabinet last week, would include the release of all the hostages. Israel would withdraw its forces from Gaza and release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Crucially, Biden said the plan was possible because Hamas was no longer capable of carrying out another mass attack like the October 7 invasion.

“The people of Israel should know they can make this offer without any further risk to your own security because they’ve devastated Hamas forces over the past eight months. At this point, Hamas no longer is capable of carrying out another October 7, [which] is one of Israel’s main objectives of this war and quite frankly a righteous one,” Biden said.

Asked for the basis of Biden’s assertion that Hamas can no longer carry out another attack like October 7, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Sunday that it was “based on an accumulation of our own intelligence assessments across the intelligence agencies".

He stressed, however, that the US was “not saying that Hamas has been wiped off the face of the map".

"From a military perspective only — as President Biden said — the Israelis have accomplished most of their goals in Gaza."

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby

“We have not said that Hamas has no military capabilities,” Kirby said. “We have not said that they don’t still represent a viable threat to the Israeli people. Of course they do.”

“But they don’t have the military capabilities to do what they did on the seventh of October. From a military perspective only — as President Biden said — the Israelis have accomplished most of their goals in Gaza,” he asserted.

Another intelligence source told CNN that the deal would not have been possible three months ago but Hamas's strength had now degraded sufficiently to make it realistic.

On the numbers, it is far from clear that Hamas has been neutralised. Politco reported recently that US intelligence estimates that only about a third of Hamas fighters have been killed and about 65 per cent of its tunnels are still intact. Hamas has also recruited thousands of new members during the war.

Israeli officials say Hamas fighters are returning to areas previously cleared.

“We do have to remember there are more Hamas armed people in the north of Gaza in the places that the IDF has already moved out of than… in Rafah… Those are the IDF’s numbers. This is why the IDF had to go back into Jabaliya and… Zeitoun [a nearby town]. Hamas is controlling all those areas,” Eyal Hulata, the head of Israel’s national security council from 2021 to last year, told reporters last month.

Times of Israel Editor David Horovitz pointed out that Biden himself implied Hamas still poses a substantive threat when he said in his speech announcing the deal that “if Hamas fails to fulfill its commitments under the deal, Israel can resume military operations”.

Jerusalem Post commentator Seth Frantzman criticised the deal as handing victory to Hamas. "The current ceasefire plan is a plan to keep Hamas in power. The result will be that Hamas will return to running most of Gaza in the coming years and the reconstruction effort will likely empower Hamas as it has in the past."

The Forward's Rob Eshman wrote one of the most positive analyses of the proposal, noting "it’s no coincidence that the words “secure” and “security” appeared at least 14 times in the short speech. Israelis are still living as if it’s Oct. 8. The shock, grief and sense of insecurity provoked by Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack are, for many if not most of them, still raw and real. 

"This was Biden telling Israelis something they may not quite be able, in that state of mind, to hear: You have already won."

Inside Israel

The costs of October 7 are still being counted in Israel. This week a new body, that of Dolev Yahoud, 35, was uncovered at Kibbutz Nir Oz, and Israel announced the deaths in captivity of four more hostages: Chaim Peri, 79, Amiram Cooper, 84, Yoram Metzger, 80, and Nadav Popplewell, 51.

How much of a threat to Israel Hamas still poses is key as to whether Israelis get behind the deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed the plan straight after Biden's speech on Friday but released a statement on Saturday night emphasising that a ceasefire was still dependent on “the destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages, and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel”.

“The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu is facing domestic pressure both to support and reject the deal. His ultranationalist coalition partners quickly declared that anything other than the “destruction of Hamas” would not be acceptable to them and they would leave the government if a deal does not meet their criteria.

The opposition leaders, some Likud ministers, and hostage families urged Netanyahu to move forward with the proposal. Protesters took to the streets of several cities across Israel on Saturday demanding Netanyahu move forward with the deal. They also demanded Netanyahu’s resignation and called for early elections.

There has been no word as to whether Hamas will accept the deal. Biden addressed protesters and foreign leaders who have pressed for a ceasefire, urging them to pressure Hamas. “Israel has offered a comprehensive proposal. Now it’s time to raise your voices and demand that Hamas come to the table,” he said.



Biden announces Israeli plan that would end war in Gaza, and urges Hamas to accept (JTA)

Netanyahu says no Gaza ceasefire until Israel’s war aims are achieved, raising questions over Biden peace proposal (CNN)

US expects Israel to commit to its hostage deal proposal if Hamas agrees (Times of Israel)

Hamas still strong in areas ‘cleared’ by Israel in northern Gaza, say experts (Guardian)


Biden’s fateful, carefully timed, and highly complex challenge to Netanyahu and Hamas (David Horovitz, Times of Israel)

Inside Biden's shock cease-fire and hostage deal proposal to end Israel-Hamas War in Gaza (Ben Samuels, Haaretz)

Who can declare victory if a ceasefire would leave Hamas in power? (Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post)


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