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regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 April 2024

Israel, Hamas and Qatari mediators express caution about progress towards truce in Gaza

According to Biden, a ceasefire deal could be reached in less than a week that would halt the war for Ramazan

Reuters Washington, Dubai, Cairo Published 28.02.24, 07:28 AM
Joe Biden

Joe Biden File image

Israel, Hamas and Qatari mediators all expressed caution on Tuesday about progress towards a truce in Gaza, after US President Joe Biden said he believed a ceasefire deal could be reached in less than a week that would halt the war for Ramazan.

Hamas is now weighing a proposal, agreed by Israel at talks with mediators in Paris last week, for a ceasefire that would suspend fighting for 40 days, the first extended truce of the five-month-old war.

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According to a source close to the talks, the proposal would see militants free some but not all of the hostages they are holding, in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian detainees, a surge in humanitarian aid for Gaza and Israeli troops pulling out of populated areas in the enclave.

But it appears to stop short of satisfying Hamas’s main demand for any agreement to include a clear path towards a permanent end to the war and Israeli withdrawal or resolving the fate of Israeli men among the hostages.

In remarks broadcast on a late-night talk show after midnight on Tuesday, Biden said Israel had already agreed to halt fighting in Gaza for Ramazan, which is expected to begin in two weeks.

“Ramazan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramazan, as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Earlier on Monday, Biden said he hoped a ceasefire agreement would be nailed down by March 4: “My national security adviser tells me that they’re close. They’re close. They’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire,” Biden said.

But Qatar, which has acted as the main mediator and is now hosting delegations from both sides to hammer out the terms of the deal, said a breakthrough had yet to be reached.

“We don’t have a final agreement on any of the issues that are hampering reaching an agreement.

“We remain hopeful, not necessarily optimistic that we can announce something today or tomorrow. But we remain hopeful that we can get to some kind of agreement,” said Majed Al Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Senior Hamas officials said Biden’s remarks appearing to suggest that an agreement had already been reached in principle were premature.

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