Biden Expresses Hope For Gaza Cease-Fire Next Week


U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday he hopes to see a new Gaza cease-fire by early next week, as delegations from several countries work to negotiate the first halt in fighting since late November.

“My national security adviser tells me that we’re close,” Biden told reporters in New York. “We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a cease-fire.”

Negotiators have been working toward an agreement that would pause fighting for six weeks. The deal would include the release of hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza, as well as the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza each day would also be part of the agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a temporary cease-fire would not change Israel’s plans to eventually carry out an offensive in the southern town of Rafah to achieve Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas.

Prospects of a Rafah operation have raised international alarms because of the large number of Palestinians who are living there, many of them after fleeing other parts of Gaza in search of safety.

“Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said during an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” broadcast early Tuesday. “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.”

Netanyahu’s office said Monday the Israeli military gave his war Cabinet “a plan for evacuating the population from the areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, and with the upcoming operational plan.”

The Netanyahu statement Monday did not give any details about where Israel plans to send the Palestinians and Egypt has said it will not open its borders. Much of Gaza, the narrow territory along the Mediterranean Sea, has been leveled during Israel’s massive counteroffensive after the October 7 Hamas terror attack killed 1,200 people in Israel. 

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, the majority women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. Israel’s campaign has also injured more than 70,200 people. Israel says it has killed 12,000 Hamas fighters. 

The United Nations has expressed concern about any plan to move the civilian population from southern Gaza and about Israeli plans to launch an offensive in the area populated by people already in need of humanitarian aid. 

Hamas captured about 250 hostages in its October attack. About 100 hostages were released during a weeklong cease-fire in November. The Israeli military says it believes about 30 hostages held by Hamas have subsequently died or been killed in Gaza. 

Hezbollah conflict

Israel’s military reported Tuesday a second consecutive day of airstrikes in Lebanon targeting the militant group Hezbollah, which is a Hamas ally.

Tuesday’s strikes came in response to a barrage of Hezbollah rocket fire aimed at a military base in northern Israel, which the Israeli military said did not cause damage to the site.

Hezbollah shot down an Israeli drone Monday, leading to Israeli airstrikes near the Lebanese city of Baalbek, with Hezbollah saying two people were killed.

Months of cross-border fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has raised concerns about the conflict spreading in the region. 

Hospital evacuation

The United Nations said Tuesday that a joint effort with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to evacuate patients from the Al Amal hospital in Khan Younis was held up by Israeli forces.

The U.N. humanitarian office said in a statement that the convoy was stopped for seven hours just after leaving the hospital on Sunday, despite prior coordination with Israel that involved sharing personal details of all the staff members and vehicles involved.

The statement said three paramedics from the PRCS were detained, and that two were still being held.

“This is not an isolated incident. Aid convoys have come under fire and are systematically denied access to people in need. Humanitarian workers have been harassed, intimidated or detained by Israeli forces, and humanitarian infrastructure has been hit,” the U.N. humanitarian office said.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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