Joe Biden hopeful of Gaza ceasefire by Monday as details of proposal emerge

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Joe Biden has said he believes a new, temporary ceasefire in Gaza is possible by next Monday, as Hamas was reportedly considering a draft agreement for a 40-day pause in fighting and the exchange of dozens of Israeli hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, according to a Reuters source.

“My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet,” Biden told reporters during a visit to New York on Monday after taping an appearance on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers. “My hope is by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire.”

During the Meyers interview, Biden also said Israel would be willing to temporarily halt its war during the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some of the hostages. “Ramadan’s coming up and there has been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said.

His appearance came hours before details of a draft proposal from truce talks in Paris were reported by Reuters, citing a senior source close to the discussions. The plans reportedly included a 40-day pause in all military operations as well as the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages at a ratio of 10 to one.

Under the ceasefire terms, hospitals and bakeries in Gaza would be repaired, 500 aid trucks would enter into the strip each day and thousands of tents and caravans would be delivered to house the displaced, the Reuters source said.

The draft also reportedly stated Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages including women, children under 19, people over 50 and the sick, while Israel would release about 400 Palestinian prisoners and would not re-arrest them, the source said.

It would also reportedly allow the gradual return of displaced civilians to northern Gaza, except men of military age.

Over the weekend, Israel’s war cabinet approved the broad terms of a deal to pause fighting for several weeks in exchange for the release of hostages held in Gaza. In a protracted bid to bring about a truce – Egypt, Qatar, the United States, France and others have acted as go-betweens for Israel and Hamas, with negotiations ongoing.

A deal could include the release of several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel, media reports suggest, according to Agence France-Presse.

Qatar’s Emir sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani – whose country hosts Hamas leaders and helped broker a one-week truce in November – is due in Paris this week, according to the French presidency.

A weeks-long pause would allow hundreds of trucks to deliver aid to Gaza, where nearly 30,000 have been killed according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and disease and hunger have gripped much of the population.

Last week, the United Nations food agency paused aid to northern Gaza, citing Israeli gunfire and “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order”, amid increasing reports of famine.

The amount of aid reaching Gaza fell by half in February compared with January, the UN has said, as its secretary general, António Guterres, warned an Israeli assault on Rafah would be “the nail in the coffin” of deliveries to the territory.

US officials hope a multi-week pause in fighting could offer a path to ending the war. But Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed any truce deal would delay, not prevent, a ground invasion of Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip.

“I’ve set three war goals. The first is to release the hostages. The second is to destroy Hamas. And the third is to ensure that Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel in the future,” he said, speaking on CBS’s Face of the Nation. “Understand that unless we have total victory, we can’t have peace. We can’t leave Hamas in place.”

Netanyahu’s office on Monday said the military had shown Israel’s war cabinet its plan for evacuating civilians from Rafah, but no details have been released on where those displaced people could go.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has faced increasing public pressure over the fate of hostages still held in Gaza, and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.

In Israel, municipal elections twice delayed by the fighting will be held Tuesday in a poll which could gauge the public mood nearly five months into Israel’s war against Hamas.

The offensive on Gaza followed an attack in Israel by Hamas on 7 October that killed about 1,200 people and in which more than 200 people were taken hostage. About 100 hostages were freed in exchange for a week-long pause as part of an earlier deal. Israeli officials believe about 130 hostages remain in Gaza.

Biden’s comments on the ceasefire came hours after an active-duty member of the US air force died after setting himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, to protest against the war in Gaza.

The situation has become politically complicated for the US president, who is vying for votes in the US presidential primary elections. Ahead of a primary election in Michigan on Tuesday, activists have urged Democrats to mark their ballots “uncommitted” rather than support Biden, to push the president to change course and call for a permanent ceasefire.

With Agence France-Presse