Friday, April 12, 2024

Biden hopes for a ceasefire in Gaza by Monday

US President Joe Biden has stated that he hopes a ceasefire will be established in Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip by next Monday as negotiations to halt hostilities and secure the release of captives appear to gather pace.

Biden’s comments in New York on Monday came as Israeli media reported that an Israeli military delegation had flown to Qatar for intensive talks.

The negotiations – mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the US – seek to secure a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to allow aid into Gaza, where the United Nations says some 2.3 million people are on the brink of famine.

The proposed pause would also allow for the release of dozens of captives held by Hamas in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Biden, when asked when he thought a ceasefire could begin, said he hoped for a truce to take effect within days.

“Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, by the end of the weekend,” he told reporters at an ice-cream shop in New York.

“My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”

The US has been stepping up pressure on Israel in recent days to agree on a truce soon in a bid to head off a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where some 1.4 million people, many of them displaced by war, have sought safety.

Biden’s comments came a day after his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan stated representatives from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the US discussed the terms of a ceasefire deal in Paris over the weekend and had come to “an understanding” about the contours of such an agreement.

The talks in the French capital did not include representatives from Hamas.

The Reuters news agency, citing Egyptian security sources, said the Paris meeting would be followed by proximity talks involving delegates from Israel and Hamas, first in Qatar and later in Cairo.

Hamas has its political office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

In Qatar on Monday, the country’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh and discussed efforts to reach an “immediate and durable ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip”, according to the Qatar News Agency.

Following the meeting, Haniyeh said Hamas welcomed mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war and accused Israel of stalling while the people of Gaza die under siege.

Israel, meanwhile, continues to maintain in public that it will not end the war until Hamas is eradicated and that its planned assault on Rafah would continue even if a ceasefire deal was reached.

Israel’s offensive on Gaza has killed 29,800 Palestinians since October 7, when Hamas launched surprise attacks inside southern Israel.

Some 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas offensive. The armed group also took some 250 captives into Gaza. More than 100 of the captives were released during a short-lived ceasefire in November, while some 132 remain in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

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