Israel ready for Ramadan break if hostage deal reached (Joe Biden) – National

US President Joe Biden signaled that a ceasefire in Gaza could be near, saying Israel had agreed to suspend its offensive during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan if a deal was reached to release some hostages held by Hamas.

But Israel and Hamas on Tuesday downplayed the idea that a breakthrough was imminent.

Following Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on October 7, Israel’s air, sea and land campaign in Gaza has killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed large swathes of the urban landscape, displaced 80 percent of the battered enclave’s population and has sparked concerns about looming famine, according to the United Nations.

Today, the prospect of an invasion of Rafah is sparking global concern about the fate of the civilians trapped there.

Click to play video: “Israel-Hamas: Biden hopes for ceasefire by “end of weekend”

Israel-Hamas: Biden hopes for a ceasefire by “the end of the weekend”

Talks to suspend fighting have recently gained momentum and were underway Tuesday. Negotiators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar have been working to broker a ceasefire that would see Hamas release some of the dozens of hostages it is holding in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, d a six-week cessation of fighting and an increase in fighting. in aid deliveries to Gaza.

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The start of Ramadan, expected around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for reaching an agreement. This month is a time of increased religious observance and fasting from dawn to dusk for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. Israeli-Palestinian tensions have flared in the past during the holy month.

“Ramadan is coming and there was an agreement among the Israelis that they would not participate in activities during Ramadan as well, to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said during an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night With.” Seth Meyers” which was filmed on Monday.

In separate comments the same day, Biden said he hoped a ceasefire agreement could take effect next week.

Click to play video: “Palestinian Prime Minister resigns over Gaza crisis”

Palestinian Prime Minister resigns over Gaza crisis

At the same time, Biden has not called for an end to the conflict, sparked when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250 people, according to Israeli authorities.

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Israeli officials said Biden’s comments came as a surprise and were not made in coordination with the country’s leaders. A Hamas official downplayed any sense of progress, saying the group would not relax its demands.

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Israeli officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive discussions with the media, said Israel wanted a deal immediately, but Hamas continued to demand excessive measures. They also said Israel was insisting that female soldiers be among the first group of hostages released under a truce deal.

Hamas official Ahmad Abdel-Hadi said it was premature to be optimistic about a deal.

“The resistance is not interested in giving up any of its demands, and what is proposed does not meet what it had asked for,” he told pan-Arab television channel Al Mayadeen.

Hamas has already demanded that Israel end the conflict as part of any deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “delusional.”

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Man sets himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC

At a news conference in Doha on Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said “we are optimistic” about the talks, without giving further details.

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A senior Egyptian official said the draft deal included the release of up to 40 women and elderly hostages in exchange for up to 300 Palestinian prisoners – mostly women, minors and the elderly.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, said the proposed six-week pause in fighting would allow hundreds of trucks to deliver desperately needed aid each day to Gaza, including the north hard hit.

Biden, who has shown unwavering support for Israel throughout the conflict, left the door open in his remarks for a possible Israeli ground offensive in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on the border with Egypt, where more than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people fled under Israeli evacuation orders.

Netanyahu said a ground operation in Rafah was an inevitable part of Israel’s strategy to crush Hamas. This week, the army submitted operational plans for the offensive, as well as plans for the evacuation of civilians, to the Cabinet for approval.

Click to play video: “Israel-Hamas conflict: Negotiators work on possible Gaza hostage deal as hopes for ceasefire grow”

Israel-Hamas conflict: Negotiators work on possible Gaza hostage deal as hopes for ceasefire grow

Biden said he believed Israel had slowed its bombing of Rafah.

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“They must do it and they have committed to me to ensure that it is possible to evacuate significant parts of Rafah before they leave and eliminate the rest of Hamas,” he said. “But it’s a process.”

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed more than 29,700 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

The conflict’s first and only ceasefire in late November resulted in the release of around 100 hostages – mostly women, children and foreign nationals – in exchange for around 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel , as well as a brief cessation of the conflict. struggle.

About 130 hostages remain in Gaza, but Israel says about a quarter of them are dead.

Click to play video: “US to provide $53 million more in humanitarian aid to Gaza, West Bank, White House says”

US to provide additional $53 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza, West Bank: White House

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