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Biden says temporary cease-fire in Gaza could come next week

Written by on February 26, 2024

President Biden on Monday said he hoped a deal between Israel and Hamas could emerge as soon as next week, providing for the release of many of the remaining hostages in Gaza in exchange for a temporary pause in the fighting in the Palestinian enclave.

Asked on Monday when a Gaza cease-fire could start, Biden said, “I hope by the end of the weekend. … My national security adviser tells me that we’re close — we’re close — we’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a cease-fire.”

Biden and his top aides have for weeks been almost singularly focused on securing a weeks-long cease-fire in the fighting in Gaza in exchange for many of the more than 100 remaining hostages. The negotiations have proven difficult as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to appease far-right members of his government, who have opposed the deal, and Hamas has made demands that Israel finds unacceptable, including on the issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages.

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s nearly five-month long military campaign, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel launched its retaliatory campaign in Gaza after Hamas militants rampaged through the Israel-Gaza border fence on Oct. 7 and murdered 1,200 people, many of them civilians, and took about 250 others hostage.

If a cease-fire deal is reached, Israel has vowed to continue fighting after it expires, saying it will move ahead with plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering in decrepit conditions after being told by Israel to evacuate there for safety. Biden and his top aides have made clear they oppose an Israeli military operation in Rafah without a “credible” plan to evacuate the Palestinians there — a task that many experts have said is impossible given the destruction in Gaza and sheer number of civilians who would need to be relocated.

The White House hopes a temporary pause would lay the groundwork for a permanent end to the fighting. Biden’s tight embrace of Israel, refusal to call for a permanent cease-fire and reluctance to condition military aid to Israel has hurt him politically, as polls show young voters, progressives, people of color and Muslim and Arab-Americans deeply oppose to his handling of the war.

A key test for Biden will come in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Michigan, where activists are urging Democrats to choose “uncommitted” rather than voting for the president. Organizers of the effort have said they hope that at least 10,000 people will vote uncommitted, sending a message to Biden that he should alter his policy and call for a permanent cease-fire—a step Biden resisted taking, saying Israel has a right to defend itself by destroying Hamas.

BY YASMEEN ABUTALEB


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