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Biden urges Hamas to accept new Israeli ceasefire plan intended to end war


Biden urges Hamas to accept new Israeli ceasefire plan intended to end war

May 31, 2024 | 3:45 pm ET
By Jennifer Shutt
Biden urges Hamas to accept new Israeli ceasefire plan intended to end war
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on former U.S. President Donald Trump’s guilty verdict in his hush-money trial before speaking on the Middle East at the White House on May 31, 2024 in Washington, DC. Biden said Trump had a fair trial and an impartial jury found him guilty on all 34 counts and added it is dangerous for anyone to say the trial was rigged. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced a ceasefire proposal from Israel on Friday, saying the three-phase plan presented to Hamas represents the best chance to end the war.

Biden, speaking from the White House, urged people around the world who have been calling for an end to the war in the Middle East to pressure the Iran-backed terrorist organization to take the deal. If successful, it would begin with a six-week ceasefire and end with the reconstruction of Gaza.

“For months, people all over the world have called for a ceasefire,” Biden said. “Now it’s time to raise your voices and demand that Hamas come to the table, agree to this deal and end this war that they began.”

Biden also called on Israel’s leaders to be firm in their commitment to the ceasefire proposal, urging them to reject those within the country and its government who believe the war should continue no matter what.

“I know there are those in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely. Some — some — are even in the government coalition and they’ve made it clear they want to occupy Gaza, they want to keep fighting for years and the hostages are not a priority to them,” Biden said. “Well, I’ve urged the leadership in Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes.”

Rejecting this proposal, or not working genuinely to move through its three phases, would be detrimental to Israel’s safety, Biden said.

“That will not bring hostages home. That will not bring an enduring defeat of Hamas. That will not bring Israel lasting security,” Biden said.

Months of war, thousands of deaths

The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, killing approximately 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostages. Ever since, Israel has been at war with the terrorist organization throughout Gaza.

The civilian death toll in the occupied territory has risen significantly during the eight-month war and has been exacerbated by a lack of clean water, food, shelter and medical care. The number of dead has risen to more than 35,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, who say the majority are women and children.

Biden has faced mounting pressure from within the United States to find an end to the war, with thousands of Democrats voting “uncommitted” in their state’s presidential primaries to voice their frustration with how he’s handled the conflict.

Protesters have also shown up at several of Biden’s official and campaign events to demand he do more to implement a permanent cease fire and increase the supply of humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

Six-week first phase

The first phase of the agreement would include a six-week ceasefire, during which time Israel’s military would withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza and civilians would be able to return to their homes, including in the north. Hamas would release women, elderly, the injured and American hostages. Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

Remains of hostages who have died would be returned to their families during phase one, “bringing some degree of closure to that terrible grief,” Biden said.

Humanitarian assistance to Gaza would increase significantly, Biden said, with at least 600 trucks entering the territory every day.

“With a ceasefire, that aid could be safely and effectively distributed to all who need it,” Biden said. “Hundreds of thousands of temporary shelters, including housing units would be delivered by the international community. All that and more would begin immediately.”

Negotiations for a permanent ceasefire

The second phase of the agreement would begin after Israel and Hamas successfully completed negotiations during the first phase to reach a permanent ceasefire, Biden said.

“Now I’ll be straight with you: There are a number of details to negotiate to move from phase one to phase two,” Biden said. “Israel will want to make sure its interests are protected. But the proposal says if the negotiations take longer than six weeks for phase one, a ceasefire will still continue as long as negotiations continue.”

Egypt, Qatar and the United States all hope to keep those negotiations going, he said.

During the second phase there would be an exchange of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers. Israel’s military would withdraw from Gaza.

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

Reconstructing Gaza

The third phase would include “a major reconstruction plan for Gaza” and any remains of deceased hostages not previously returned to their families would be sent back at that time.

Biden said his administration would work with allies “to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza.”

“To help repair communities that were destroyed in the chaos of war,” he added.

Completing all three phases of the proposed ceasefire, Biden said, could lead to Israel and Saudi Arabia normalizing relations.

“Israel could be part of a regional security network to counter the threat posed by Iran,” Biden said. “All this progress would make Israel more secure, with Israeli families no longer living in the shadow of a terrorist attack. All this would create the conditions for a different future, a better future for the Palestinian people — one of self-determination, dignity, security and freedom.”