Israel ready to halt its war on Gaza during Ramadan if a captive deal is reached: Biden

AP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 27 Feb 2024

United States President Joe Biden said Israel would be willing to halt its war on Gaza during the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some of the hostages held by Hamas.

(L-R) US President Joe Biden speaks with host Seth Meyers during a taping of  Late Night with Seth M
(L-R) US President Joe Biden speaks with host Seth Meyers during a taping of Late Night with Seth Meyers in New York City on February 26, 2024. AFP


Negotiators from the US, Egypt, and Qatar are working on a framework deal under which Hamas would free some of the dozens of captives it holds, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and a six-week halt in fighting.

During the temporary pause, negotiations would continue over the release of the remaining captives.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to Biden’s comments, released for publication early Tuesday.

The start of Ramadan, around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for a cease-fire deal. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.

Biden said Monday that he hopes a cease-fire deal could take effect by next week.

During a pause, negotiations would continue over the release of the remaining captives and the release of additional Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

“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 in an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”

At the same time, Biden did not call for an end to the Israeli war on Gaza, which started on Oct. 7.

He left open the door to an eventual Israeli ground offensive in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, on the border with Egypt, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has fled under Israeli evacuation orders.

The prospect of an invasion of Rafah has prompted global alarm over the fate of Gaza civilians trapped there. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a ground operation in Rafah is an inevitable component of Israel’s strategy for crushing Hamas.

Biden said Monday that he believes Israel has slowed its bombardment of Rafah. “They have to and they have made a commitment to me that they’re going to see to it that there’s an ability to evacuate significant portions of Rafah before they go and take out the remainder Hamas … but it’s a process,” he said.

Domestic opposition to Gaza war

Since the start of the war, hundreds of thousands have protested in various cities across the US demanding that Washington call for a ceasefire in Gaza, with many demanding an end to US military and political support to Israel.

Many voices inside the State Department and the White House have also expressed outrage at the unconditional support given by Washington to Tel Aviv as Israel uses US weapons to kill and wound more than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza and reduce the strip to rubble.

A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that half of US adults say Israel's military campaign in Gaza has “gone too far,” a finding driven mainly by growing disapproval among Republicans and political independents.

Broadly, the poll showed support for Israel and the Biden administration's handling of the situation ebbing slightly further across the board.

The poll also showed only 31 percent of US adults approve of Biden's handling of the conflict, including just 46 percent of Democrats.

In mid-January, 11 senators joined Senator Bernie Sanders, an outspoken critic of the human toll of the Israeli war on civilians in Gaza, in the procedural vote to decide whether to investigate human rights abuses in the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.

That vote was defeated after opposition from 72 senators.

Amid growing domestic opposition to the Gaza war - and a wider US embroilment in a wider war in the region - the Biden administration remains steadfast in its support of Israel, using its veto power in the United Security Council to derail or defeat all resolutions for a permanent ceasefire.

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