Biden pushing for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan; White House says waiting on Hamas signoff

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WASHINGTON – Israel has essentially agreed to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza that would include the release of hostages, and negotiators are now waiting for Hamas to sign off on the deal, U.S. officials said Saturday.

“The ball is literally in the court of Hamas,” one official said.

The Israelis “have more or less accepted” the framework of a deal that would include a six-week ceasefire and the release of vulnerable hostages, including women, children and those who are elderly or wounded, said senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

President Joe Biden said Friday he hopes that a deal can be in place by the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins March 10. Biden is under pressure to call for a ceasefire as hunger and disease spread in Gaza after months of attacks by Israel following the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

In this image grab from an AFPTV video, people carry food parcels that were air-dropped from US aircrafts above a beach in the Gaza Strip, on March 2, 2024. Israel's top ally the United States said it began air-dropping aid into war-ravaged Gaza on March 2, as the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry reported more than a dozen child malnutrition deaths. (Photo by Aline MANOUKIAN / AFP) (Photo by ALINE MANOUKIAN/AFP via Getty Images) ORIG FILE ID: 2046327955

The U.S. began airdropping humanitarian aid into the area on Saturday, days after over 100 Palestinians were killed when witnesses said Israeli forces fired at people waiting for food in Gaza City. Officials said the airdrops would make sure that food and other commodities get to people who need them and help prevent the looting that has plagued the delivery of goods into the region on the ground.

Over 30,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza since the start of the war after Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Negotiations on a ceasefire deal are ongoing in Doha, Qatar, and significant progress has been made over the past few weeks, officials said.

“But like all things, until a deal is actually done, it’s not done,” one official said.

Hamas has yet to agree to the terms of the deal, officials said.

Biden spoke with the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about the framework of the deal and about other issues that still need to be resolved. The question, officials said, is whether Hamas is committed to releasing hostages as part of any agreement.

“The hostages have to be released,” one official said. “…Is Hamas committed to do that? That’s really the main issue now.”

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @mcollinsNEWS.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden seeks Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan; US waiting for Hamas to sign off