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Biden hopes for a ceasefire by next Monday

US President Joe Biden has raised hopes for a ceasefire and the release of at least some of the remaining 136 hostages.
TJI Wrap
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President Biden tells questioners he hopes for a ceasefire deal (Screen capture/C-Span/ X)

Published: 27 February 2024

Last updated: 21 March 2024

US President Joe Biden has raised hopes for a ceasefire and the release of at least some of the remaining 136 hostages.

During a campaign visit to an ice cream story in New York on Wednesday, President Joe Biden was asked when there would be a ceasefire deal.

“Well I hope by the beginning of the weekend. The end of the weekend. My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet.

“And my hope is that by next Monday [March 4] we’ll have a ceasefire,” he responded.

The comment has raised signficant hopes for the first time in weeks that a ceasefire deal is close.

International pressure for a deal is increasing with the death toll in Gaza likely to pass the grim milestone of 30,000 this week.

The threat of an Israeli attack on Rafah is also prompting renewed efforts at a ceasefire. Rafah contains a heavily concentrated population of about 1.5 million refugees from other parts of Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS this week that a ceasefire might delay an assault on Rafah but would not prevent it.

A break in fighting now would cover the volatile Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts around 10 March this year.

It would also enable the delivery of desperately-needed aid.

What a deal would involve

Negotiators from Israel, Qatar, Egypt and the US agreed on the “basic contours” of an arrangement during weekend talks in Paris, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN, but the final details still have to be hammered out.

Israeli media reported that the prospective deal would allow for the release of 30 or 40 hostages – women, elderly people and the wounded – in exchange for up to 300 Palestinian prisoners, and a ceasefire lasting up to six weeks.

Both sides would continue negotiations during the pause for further releases and a permanent ceasefire, an Egyptian official told the Associated Press.

Additional humanitarian aid will also be part of any deal.

The US hopes a ceasefire would provide time to implement the Biden doctrine, beginning talks for a wider regional peace plan involving moves towards a Palestinian state, normalisation with Saudi Arabia and the creation of a strong regional axis against Iran.

Gaza deteriorating

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is continuing to deteriorate with aid agencies unable to cope.

Northern Gaza is almost entirely cut off from the outside world. The population, estimated at around 300,000 people, reduced to a feral existence in a world where shops barely exist and aid never arrives.

The south, meanwhile, is crammed with the displaced - hundreds of thousands of people constantly on the move, looking for food, shelter and safety.

"Every time you go back it gets worse," Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's interim coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said on Friday.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is facing a shortfall of $450m from a budget of $880m, after 19 countries suspended aid because of the involvement of agency staff in the October 7 massacre. Israeli investigations found UNWRA was "riddled with Hamas" operatives, some involved in the massacre and kidnappings.

How Gaza could be governed beyond the war remains a matter of debate. Netanyahu this week unveiled his plan for post-war Gaza, which was coolly received by the US and dismissed by commentators as "Groundhog Day".


Biden says hoping for ceasefire in Gaza by next Monday: ‘We’re close. We’re not done yet’ (Times of Israel)

Gaza death toll set to pass 30,000, as Israel prepares assault on Rafah (Guardian)

Biden puts two-state solution back into play (The Jewish Independent)

UN’s Palestinian aid agency ‘at breaking point’ after $450m budget shortfall (Guardian)

Gaza desperately needs more aid but agencies can’t cope (BBC)


Netanyahu's ideas for postwar Gaza are aimed at strengthening the occupation (Jack Khoury, Haaretz)
A leader with a real diplomatic plan would have presented it to the public in prime time rather than reveal it in the dead of night.

Will the US recognize a State of Palestine? The Biden-Netanyahu gap deepens over plans for Gaza’s future. (JTA)
It’s unclear whether any plans are actually afoot for the United States to recognize a Palestinian state — but even the prospect of recognition is rattling the Israelis.

IDF presents plan for evacuation of Rafah, gets approval for aid to south Gaza (Times of Israel)
Prime Minister’s Office does not provide details of proposal presented to war cabinet, says humanitarian supplies will be provided ‘in a way that will prevent looting’.


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