Biden Hopes for Gaza Peace in Ramadan, But Hamas Says no Deal Yet

As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, US President Joe Biden said he hoped that Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls Gaza, would agree to a ceasefire that would end the five-month-long war that has devastated the coastal enclave.

Biden, who spoke on a late-night TV show on Monday, said that Israel had agreed to stop its attacks on Gaza during Ramadan, which is expected to start on March 10, to allow time for the release of some of the hostages that Hamas had captured in a raid on southern Israel in October.

“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.

However, Hamas officials said that Biden’s remarks were premature and that there were still major differences between the two sides over the terms of the ceasefire.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters that the proposal that was discussed at a meeting in Paris last week between Israel, the US and mediators from Egypt and Qatar was vague and did not address the main issues of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the permanent end of the war.

“The primary and main issues of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces are not clearly stated, which delays reaching an agreement,” the official said.

According to a source close to the talks, the draft proposal offered a 40-day truce, during which Hamas would free around 40 hostages, mostly women, children and the sick, in exchange for around 400 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Israel would also pull back its troops from the populated areas of Gaza and allow the displaced residents to return to their homes. The proposal also included an increase in humanitarian aid and supplies for Gaza, which has been under a crippling blockade by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

But the proposal did not meet Hamas’s demands for the release of all the hostages, including the soldiers and the healthy men, or for the release of as many as 1,500 Palestinian prisoners. It also did not guarantee a permanent ceasefire or an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Hamas, which has been ruling Gaza since 2007, launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages. Israel responded with a massive ground and air offensive on Gaza, which has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

Biden, who has faced criticism from some of his allies for not doing enough to stop the bloodshed, said that Israel had to do more to avoid civilian casualties and to preserve its international support. He said that Israel had agreed to slow down its attacks on Rafah, the last city on the southern edge of Gaza, where more than half of the 2.3 million residents are trapped, many of them living in tents or public buildings.

Biden said that Israel had also promised to allow the Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah before launching a major assault on the city, where it says Hamas has four battalions of fighters. Israel has said that it will not stop the war until it destroys Hamas’s military capabilities.

“There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said.

Biden also said that a temporary ceasefire would pave the way for a political process that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the idea of a Palestinian state, saying that it would jeopardize Israel’s security.

Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory in the war, saying that they have achieved their military and political goals. Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniya said that the war had changed the equation between Gaza and Israel and that Hamas had defended the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.

Netanyahu said that Israel had done “bold and new things” in the war and that its air campaign had been an “exceptional success”. He said that it was up to Hamas to decide whether to accept Israel’s latest offer or face more attacks.

The ceasefire talks are continuing in Qatar, where delegations from both sides are present. Egypt and Qatar have been mediating between Israel and Hamas, while the US has been in contact with both parties and other regional and international actors.

The people of Pakistan and an entire Muslim Ummah, who have been following the war with concern and solidarity, are hoping for a lasting peace in Gaza and an end to the suffering of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. They are also looking forward to celebrating Ramadan, the month of fasting, prayer and charity, with joy and gratitude.

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