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Biden says Israel agrees to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal


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© Reuters. An Israeli tank returns from the southern Gaza strip, in southern Israel, February 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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By Samia Nakhoul and Jeff Mason

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas studied a draft proposal for a truce which includes a pause in fighting and a prisoner-hostage exchange.

The draft proposal, which a senior source close to truce talks in Paris told Reuters would allow hospitals and bakeries in Gaza to be repaired and 500 aid trucks to enter the battered enclave every day, is the most serious attempt in weeks to end the conflict which erupted in October last year.

Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of March 10th and end on the evening of April 9th.

“Ramadan is coming up, and there’s 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 during an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers”.

He also warned that Israel risked losing international support due to the high death toll among Palestinians, adding that Israel had committed to make it possible for Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah in Gaza’s south before intensifying its campaign there to destroy Hamas.

Biden, whose remarks were recorded on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday, said there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between the two sides while hostages were released. He said he hoped to have a ceasefire in the conflict by the following Monday.

“There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said, adding that a temporary ceasefire would jumpstart a process for Palestinians to have their own state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a two-state solution.  

Under the draft proposal, the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages would be at a ratio of 10 to one, the senior source said.

The draft also states Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages including women, children under 19, elderly over 50 and the sick, while Israeli would release around 400 Palestinian prisoners and will not re-arrest them, the source told Reuters.

Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave

After Hamas killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on Oct. 7, Israel launched a ground assault on Gaza, with nearly 30,000 people confirmed killed, according to Gaza health authorities.



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