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'Surprised! Biden's remarks not made in coordination with leadership': Israel, Hamas on ceasefire by Ramadan

Israeli officials said Biden's comments came as a surprise and were not made in coordination with the country's leadership. A Hamas official played down any sense of progress, saying the group wouldn't soften its demands.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Jerusalem Published on: February 28, 2024 9:06 IST
Isral hamas rejects Biden ceasefire remarks
Image Source : AP US President Joe Biden

Jerusalem: Amid the possibility of a ceasefire by next Monday, Israel and Hamas on Tuesday played down chances of an imminent breakthrough in talks for a cease-fire in Gaza. The major development came against the backdrop of US President Joe Biden claiming Israel has agreed to pause its offensive during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some hostages.

The president's remarks came on the eve of the Michigan primary, where he faces pressure from the state's large Arab American population over his staunch support for Israel's offensive. Biden said he had been briefed on the status of talks by his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, but said his comments reflected his optimism for a deal, not that all the remaining hurdles had been overcome.

Biden claims ceasefire is possible by next Monday

 

Talks to pause the fighting have gained momentum recently and were underway Tuesday. Negotiators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar have been working to broker a cease-fire that would see Hamas free some of the dozens of hostages it holds in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners, a six-week halt in fighting and an increase in aid deliveries to Gaza.

The start of Ramadan, which is expected to be around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for a deal. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world. Israeli-Palestinian tensions have flared in the past during the holy month.

“Ramadan's coming up, and there has been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said in an appearance on NBC's “Late Night With Seth Meyers” that was recorded Monday.

Read: 'Israel is ready to halt its war in Gaza during Ramadan if...': Biden amid soaring pressure for ceasefire

In separate comments the same day, Biden said that he hoped a cease-fire deal could take effect by next week. At the same time, Biden did not call for an end to the war, which was triggered when Hamas militants killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted roughly 250 people, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel calls Biden's remarks surprising 

Israeli officials said Biden's comments came as a surprise and were not made in coordination with the country's leadership. A Hamas official played down any sense of progress, saying the group wouldn't soften its demands. The Israeli officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive talks with the media, said Israel wants a deal immediately, but that Hamas continues to push excessive demands. They also said that Israel is insisting that female soldiers be part of the first group of hostages released under any truce deal.

Hamas official Ahmad Abdel-Hadi indicated that optimism about a deal was premature. “The resistance is not interested in giving up any of its demands, and what is proposed does not meet what it had requested,” he told the Pan-Arab TV channel Al Mayadeen. Hamas has previously demanded that Israel end the war as part of any deal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “delusional.”

US pace up discussion on post-war Gaza 

In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke by phone separately with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss planning for post-conflict reconstruction and governance of Gaza. Neither country is directly involved with the ceasefire negotiations but both will be critical in supporting what will be an expensive, lengthy and difficult scenario when the fighting stops, particularly in winning popular Arab backing for security guarantees for Israel should it agree to talks on the creation of a Palestinian state.

In nearly identical statements, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken had discussed with the ministers the US “commitment to achieving sustained peace through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel.” At a news conference in Doha on Tuesday, Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said his country felt “optimistic” about the talks, without elaborating.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: 'Biden has been pretty clear': Pentagon rejects Macron's ambiguous plan of sending troops to Ukraine

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