Biden Details Gaza Truce Proposal, Hamas Responds Positively

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US President Joe Biden on Friday laid out what he described as a three-phase Israeli proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza in return for the release of Israeli hostages, saying “it’s time for this war to end” and winning a positive initial reaction from Hamas.

The first phase involves a six-week ceasefire when Israeli forces would withdraw from “all populated areas” of Gaza, some hostages – including the elderly and women – would be freed in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian civilians could return to their homes in Gaza and 600 trucks a day would bring humanitarian aid into the devastated enclave.

In this phase, Hamas and Israel would negotiate a permanent ceasefire that Biden said would last “as long has Hamas lives up to its commitments.” If negotiations took more than six weeks, the temporary ceasefire would extend while they continued, Reuters reported.

In the second phase, Biden said there would be an exchange for all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza and the permanent ceasefire would begin.

The third phase would include a major reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the “final remains” of hostages to their families.

“It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin,” said Biden, who is under election-year pressure to stop the Gaza conflict, now in its eighth month.

Hamas, which Biden said received the proposal from Qatar, released a statement reacting positively.

Hamas said it was ready to engage “positively and in a constructive manner” with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces, the reconstruction of Gaza, a return of those displaced, and a “genuine” prisoner swap deal if Israel “clearly announces commitment to such deal”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had authorized his negotiating team to present the deal, “while insisting that the war will not end until all of its goals are achieved, including the return of all our hostages and the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities.”

Separately, the Israeli military said its forces have ended operations in north Gaza’s Jabalia area after days of intense fighting, while probing further into Rafah in south Gaza to target what they say is the last major Hamas redoubt.

The conflict began on Oct. 7 when gunmen led by the Palestinian group stormed into southern Israel on motorcycles, paragliders and four-wheel drive vehicles.

Israel then invaded the Gaza Strip in what Netanyahu has called an effort to destroy Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that seized control of the area from the Fatah Palestinian faction in a violent struggle in 2007.

Talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar and others to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have repeatedly stalled, with each side blaming the other for the lack of progress.

An Indefinite War

In his speech, Biden called on the Israeli leadership to resist pressure from those in Israel who were pushing for the war to go on “indefinitely,” a group he said included some in the Israeli governing coalition.

“They want to occupy Gaza. They want to keep fighting for years and hostages are not a priority for them. Well, I’ve urged leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes,” he added.

He implored Israelis not to miss the chance for a ceasefire.

“As the only American president who has ever gone to Israel at a time of war, as someone who just sent the US forces to directly defend Israel when it was attacked by Iran, I ask you to take a step back, think what will happen if this moment is lost,” he said. “We can’t lose this moment.”

Palestinian health authorities estimate more than 36,280 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel attacked, and the United Nations says over a million people face “catastrophic” levels of hunger as famine takes hold in parts of the enclave.

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