Biden Says Hamas–Israel Hostage and Ceasefire Negotiations ‘Not Done Yet,’ Hopes for Agreement by Week’s End

Melanie Sun
By Melanie Sun
February 27, 2024Israel–Hamas War
President Joe Biden is optimistic about a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip by Monday. Hamas is reportedly reviewing the latest ceasefire proposal, with Qatar mediating the negotiations.

President Joe Biden said he hopes that negotiations for the release of hostages by Hamas in return for prisoners in Israel and a temporary humanitarian ceasefire can be achieved by the end of the weekend.

Noting that the U.S.-led negotiations haven’t come to a conclusion yet, President Biden said he was hoping for an agreement that will see all hostages still held by Hamas released by Monday, March 4.

“My national security adviser tells me that we’re close, we’re close. It’s not done yet,” he told reporters when pressed on when he thinks a ceasefire will start if all sides can come to an agreement.

“I hope by the end of the weekend … My hope is by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire,” he said.

He made the comments during an unannounced visit to the Van Leeuwen ice cream parlor on a visit to New York alongside NBC’s late-night host Seth Meyers.

The president was in the Big Apple for a surprise appearance on Mr. Meyer’s talk show, which was marking its 10-year anniversary. President Biden made an appearance on the show’s first episode as vice president in February 2014.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Feb. 26 that right now, the Biden administration is hopeful that negotiations underway between Israel, Egypt, Qatar, and the United States in Qatar can come to an agreement.

“We are trying to secure a pause that would get hostages out, that would get humanitarian assistance in, and would greatly alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he said.

“What happens after that? I think it’s too early to say. We are focused right now on trying to achieve that pause.

“We’ve had various officials from the United States government engage in conversations last week and over the weekend to try to secure it,” he added. “We think a deal is possible. We think a deal can be reached, and ultimately, that’s where we’re focusing our efforts.”

There is hope that momentum in negotiations will make a deal possible before the Ramadan holiday that begins on March 10.

Among the remaining 134 hostages, six are believed to be American citizens. Over 30 of the hostages are dead and families are seeking the return of their bodies.

Amid the talks for a pause in fighting, Hamas continues to push for a wider “ceasefire” and a promise by Israel to end its military campaign against it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that for Israel, it is not negotiable that Hamas’s remaining military installations in southern Gaza are dismantled.

The Israeli military has since said that it has found a network of tunnels connecting the northern and southern Gaza strip, connecting Hamas’s various battalions.

Mr. Netanyahu told CBS’s Face the Nations on Sunday that he asked his war cabinet to submit to him a two-part plan that would safely evacuate 1.3 million civilians for south Gaza to make way for the military operation to dismantle Hamas’s last battalions in Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

“We’ve already destroyed 18 of the 24 Hamas terrorist battalions. We have … and four of them are concentrated in Rafah. We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it. Obviously, we have to do it,” he said.

When asked if Mr. Netanyahu’s condition would deter Hamas from agreeing to the temporary humanitarian ceasefire, Mr. Miller said of the negotiations, “I think Hamas should want to sign on to this deal because they want to see a humanitarian pause that allows more humanitarian assistance to move in to people in Gaza.

“So when it comes to Hamas’s incentives, I—far be it from me to offer assessments about what incentivizes them and what doesn’t, but I would think if they truly cared about the Palestinian people, they should agree to the deal that is on the table because it will greatly alleviate the suffering of those Palestinian people.”

On whether he thinks a deal is possible, Mr. Miller said, “I can’t make that assessment because it depends on Hamas. We believe a deal is possible and we hope Hamas will agree to one.”

Mr. Netanyahu has said a hostage deal would delay the military operation in Rafah.

Late Sunday night, Israel’s war cabinet approved another round of “humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip in a manner that will prevent the looting that has occurred in the northern Strip and other areas,” the prime minister’s office said, referring to the incidents of aid being taken by Hamas and criminal gangs and not reaching ordinary civilians.

Mr. Miller also commented on the delays to aid and the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, “the people that are calling for us to do more should be calling for Hamas to get out of the way and allow more humanitarian assistance to come in as well.”

U.N. humanitarian organizations in Gaza have warned that 85,000 Gazans could die as a result of starvation, disease, or bombing.

On Monday evening, Al-Jazeera reported that Hamas was seeking the release of 400 Palestinian prisoners in return for 40 Israeli women and elderly men.

Israel wants all 134 hostages released. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that residents from northern Gaza will not be able to return until Hamas releases all its hostages back to Israel.

Hezbollah, which has been attacking Israel from the north, has said it will continue its attacks until Israel agrees to a complete ceasefire to end its military efforts against Hamas assets in Gaza.

From The Epoch Times

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