Biden presents Israel’s new Gaza ceasefire plan

Published June 1, 2024
A protester holds a banner reading ‘France is complicit in genocide’ during a demonstration in Paris on Friday to show support to Palestinians.—AFP
A protester holds a banner reading ‘France is complicit in genocide’ during a demonstration in Paris on Friday to show support to Palestinians.—AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Friday called on Hamas to agree to a new offer from Israel on releasing prisoners in exchange for a Gaza ceasefire, saying this is the best way to begin winding down the deadly conflict.

In his first major address outlining a solution to the eight-month conflict, Biden said the proposal started with a six-week phase that would see Israeli forces withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza.

“It’s time for this war to end, for the day after to begin,” Biden said in a televised address from the White House, adding that “we can’t lose this moment” to seize the chance for peace.

“Israel has offered a comprehensive new proposal. It’s a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages,” he said.

The 81-year-old Democrat put particular pressure on the Palestinian group. “Hamas needs to take the deal,” said Biden, who has supported Israel with military aid since the conflict began.

Biden said the first six-week phase would include a “full and complete ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza, release of a number of prisoners, including women, the elderly, the wounded, in exchange for release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

Israel and the Palestinians would then negotiate during those six weeks for a lasting ceasefire — but the truce would continue if the talks remained underway, Biden said.

“As long as Hamas lives up to its commitments, a temporary ceasefire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposal, the cessation of hostilities permanently,” added Biden.

Biden’s announcement of the proposal comes after repeated attempts to end the war have stalled. Hamas insists that any ceasefire should be permanent.

The group said earlier on Friday it had informed mediators it would only agree to a “comprehensive” truce agreement including a prisoner swap if Israel halts its “aggression”.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s Qatar-based political office, reiterated that the group’s core demands — including a permanent ceasefire and full Israeli withdrawal — “are non-negotiable”.

Biden did not significantly address Israel’s assault on the southern city of Rafah.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2024

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