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Biden details Gaza truce proposal, Hamas responds positively

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U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday laid out what he described as a three-phase Israeli proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza in return for the release of Israeli hostages, saying “it’s time for this war to end” and winning a positive initial reaction from Hamas.

The first phase involves a six-week ceasefire when Israeli forces would withdraw from “all populated areas” of Gaza, some hostages – including the elderly and women – would be freed in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian civilians could return to their homes in Gaza and 600 trucks a day would bring humanitarian aid into the devastated enclave, Reuters reported.

In this phase, Hamas and Israel would negotiate a permanent ceasefire that Biden said would last “as long has Hamas lives up to its commitments.” If negotiations took more than six weeks, the temporary ceasefire would extend while they continued.

In the second phase, Biden said there would be an exchange for all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza and the permanent ceasefire would begin.

The third phase would include a major reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the “final remains” of hostages to their families.

“It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin,” said Biden, who is under election-year pressure to stop the Gaza conflict, now in its eighth month.

Hamas, which Biden said received the proposal from Qatar, released a statement reacting positively.

Hamas said it was ready to engage “positively and in a constructive manner” with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces, the reconstruction of Gaza, a return of those displaced, and a “genuine” prisoner swap deal if Israel “clearly announces commitment to such deal”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had authorized his negotiating team to present the deal, “while insisting that the war will not end until all of its goals are achieved, including the return of all our hostages and the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities.”

Separately, the Israeli military said its forces have ended operations in north Gaza’s Jabalia area after days of intense fighting, while probing further into Rafah in south Gaza to target what they say is the last major Hamas redoubt.

The conflict began on Oct. 7 when gunmen led by the Palestinian group stormed into southern Israel on motorcycles, paragliders and four-wheel drive vehicles, killing 1200 people and abducting more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel then invaded the Gaza Strip in what Netanyahu has called an effort to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian group that seized control of the area from the Fatah Palestinian faction in a violent struggle in 2007.

Talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar and others to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have repeatedly stalled, with each side blaming the other for the lack of progress.

AN INDEFINITE WAR

In his speech, Biden called on the Israeli leadership to resist pressure from those in Israel who were pushing for the war to go on “indefinitely,” a group he said included some in the Israeli governing coalition.

“They want to occupy Gaza. They want to keep fighting for years and hostages are not a priority for them. Well, I’ve urged leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes,” he added.

He implored Israelis not to miss the chance for a ceasefire.

“As the only American president who has ever gone to Israel at a time of war, as someone who just sent the U.S. forces to directly defend Israel when it was attacked by Iran, I ask you to take a step back, think what will happen if this moment is lost,” he said. “We can’t lose this moment.”

The Gaza war has put Biden in a political bind.

On the one hand, he has long been a staunch supporter of Israel and would like to ensure funding and support from the pro-Israel community in the United States in his Nov. 5 election rematch against Republican former President Donald Trump.

On the other, progressive elements of Biden’s Democratic Party have grown increasingly angry at the president for the suffering the conflict has caused civilians in Gaza.

Palestinian health authorities estimate more than 36,280 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel attacked, and the United Nations says over a million people face “catastrophic” levels of hunger as famine takes hold in parts of the enclave.

Signaling a U.S. effort to build support for the proposal, the State Department said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Jordanian, Saudi and Turkish counterparts.

Speaking to the Turkish foreign minister, “he emphasized that Hamas should accept the deal and that every country with a relationship with Hamas should press it to do so without delay,’ the State Department said.

In a sign of support for Israel despite the partisan divide in the United States, leaders of the Democratic-led U.S. Senate and of the Republican-led House of Representatives on Friday invited Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress.

The week has been dominated by the fallout from an Israeli air strike in Rafah on Sunday that killed 45 Palestinians.

“The Palestinian people have endured sheer hell in this war,” Biden said on Friday. “We all saw the terrible images from the deadly fire in Rafah earlier this week.”

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Dozens of Palestinians killed or wounded in Israeli attack on Khan Younis, Hamas says

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Dozens of Palestinians were killed or wounded in an Israeli attack on Saturday that hit tents housing displaced people in Gaza’s Khan Younis, the Hamas-run media office said.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the report. There has been no statement yet from the Gaza health ministry on the official death toll.

“The Israeli occupation army conducted a big massacre by bombarding the tent camps of the displaced in Khan Younis. The horrifying massacre killed and wounded more than 100 people, including members of the Civil Emergency Service,” the statement issued by the Hamas-run Gaza government media office said, Reuters reported.

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Nigerian school building collapses killing 22 people

Thirty people are still in hospital, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a Facebook post, adding that rescue efforts had ended and the site cleared.

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Twenty-two people were killed, after a two-storey school building collapsed in central Nigeria’s Plateau state, Sky news reported on Saturday.

A total of 154 people were trapped under the debris, and everyone apart from those who died was rescued and is being treated for injuries in various hospitals, Sky news said citing a police spokesperson, according to Reuters.

Thirty people are still in hospital, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said in a Facebook post, adding that rescue efforts had ended and the site cleared.

The two-story building, belonging to Saint Academy in the Busa Buji community of Jos north district in the state, collapsed during school hours around 0730 GMT.

Building collapses are frequent in Africa’s most populous country due to lax safety regulations and often substandard construction materials.

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Biden says Israel-Gaza war should end now and Israel must not occupy Gaza

A dozen U.S. administration officials have quit, citing opposition to Biden’s Gaza policy. Rights advocates also note a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S. amid the war, Reuters reported.

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U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday the Israel-Gaza war must end now and Israel must not occupy the enclave after the war, telling reporters his ceasefire framework had been agreed on by both Israel and Hamas but there were still gaps to close, Reuters reported.

“That framework is now agreed on by both Israel and Hamas. So I sent my team to the region to hammer out the details,” Biden said in a news conference.

Biden in late May detailed a proposal of three phases aimed at achieving a ceasefire, the release of hostages in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and the rebuilding of the coastal enclave.

CIA Director Bill Burns and U.S. Middle East envoy Brett McGurk were in the Middle East this week meeting with regional counterparts to discuss the ceasefire deal.

“These are difficult, complex issues. There are still gaps to close. We’re making progress. The trend is positive. I’m determined to get this deal done and bring an end to this war, which should end now,” Biden said in the press conference.

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has accepted a key part of a U.S. plan, dropping a demand that Israel first commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing the agreement, read the report.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the deal must not prevent Israel from resuming fighting until its war objectives are met. At the outset of the war, he pledged to annihilate Hamas.

Netanyahu’s office said on Wednesday he was committed to securing a Gaza ceasefire deal provided Israel’s red lines were respected.

Biden told reporters on Thursday that Israel must not occupy Gaza while also offering some criticism of Israel’s war cabinet, saying “Israel occasionally was less than cooperative”.

Biden also expressed disappointment at some of his steps not having succeeded in Gaza, citing the planned winding down of the U.S. military’s humanitarian pier off the coast of Gaza as an example. “I was hopeful that would be more successful,” he said.

The Biden administration has faced international criticism for its continuing support of Israel in the face of growing civilian casualties.

The United States, Israel’s important ally, has seen months of protests around the country in opposition to the war and to U.S. support for Israel.

A dozen U.S. administration officials have quit, citing opposition to Biden’s Gaza policy. Rights advocates also note a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S. amid the war, Reuters reported.

The latest bloodshed in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict was triggered on Oct. 7 when fighters led by Hamas, which controlled Gaza, attacked southern Israel. They killed 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages, according to Israeli figures.

The Gaza health ministry says that since then over 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s assault on the coastal enclave, which has displaced nearly all its 2.3 million population, caused a hunger crisis and led to genocide allegations that Israel denies.

 

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