Israeli proposal 'on the table' for Gaza ceasefire, Biden says

US President says Hamas 'no longer capable' of carrying out another major attack on Israel

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US President Joe Biden said on Friday that Israel has offered a comprehensive ceasefire proposal that would lead to an end to the war in Gaza and the start of reconstruction of the enclave.

Mr Biden said the offer, which has been presented to Hamas by Qatari mediators, would comprise three phases, beginning with an immediate end to fighting.

“Israel has offered a comprehensive new proposal,” Mr Biden said from the White House. “It's a road map to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages.”

The first phase involves a six-week “full and complete” ceasefire, Mr Biden said, and would include the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza and the release of a number of hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

During that initial phase, Palestinians would be able to return to their homes and humanitarian assistance would be delivered.

The second phase would see the release of the remaining living hostages and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

“Finally, in phase three, a major reconstruction plan for Gaza would commence and any final remains of hostages who've been killed will be returned to their families,” he said.

“That's the offer that's now on the table.”

Hamas, which Mr Biden said received the proposal from Qatar, reacted positively.

Hamas said it was ready to engage “in a constructive manner” with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces, the reconstruction of Gaza, a return of those displaced, and a “genuine” prisoner swap deal if Israel “clearly announces commitment to such deal”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had authorised his negotiating team to present the deal, “while insisting that the war will not end until all of its goals are achieved, including the return of all our hostages and the destruction of Hamas' military and government capabilities”.

Mr Biden urged Hamas to accept the deal, saying it was time for this war to end.

“At this point, Hamas no longer is capable carrying out another October 7,” he said. “It is one of the Israelis' main objectives in this war, and, quite frankly, a righteous one.”

He added that he expected resistance from some in Israel to the new ceasefire proposal.

“I’ve urged the leadership of Israel to stand behind this deal, despite whatever pressure comes,” Mr Biden said, an apparent reference to the hardliners in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet.

“To the people of Israel … I ask you to take a step back and think what will happen if this moment is lost. You can’t lose this moment.”

Signalling a US effort to build support for the proposal, the State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Jordanian, Saudi and Turkish counterparts.

Speaking to the Turkish foreign minister, “he emphasised that Hamas should accept the deal and that every country with a relationship with Hamas should press it to do so without delay,' the State Department said.

Gaps remain

A senior US administration official said the agreement is four and a half pages long and that it has been negotiated “in painstaking detail”. The official added that gaps still remain, but that they are being negotiated.

“What is on the table now is extremely close in almost every respect to the deal that Hamas presented not too long ago,” the official said.

“The President made clear there are details to work out, this is not going to be done tomorrow, but is kind of the road map.”

The Biden administration has been under tremendous domestic and international pressure to push for an end to the conflict.

On Sunday, Israel bombed a camp of displaced Palestinians sheltering in a “safe area” in Rafah, killing about 45 people.

Mr Biden had earlier said if Israel moved forward with its long-threatened invasion of Rafah, it would be a “red line” and would prompt Washington to reconsider continued military support for the country.

The White House this week called Sunday's strike “devastating” and “heartbreaking” but said it did not amount to a full-scale invasion.

The Rafah operation drew global condemnation and widespread calls for Israel to cease its attacks.

Last week, the International Court of Justice, the UN's highest court ordered Israel to halt the offensive on the city, citing the “immense risk” to civilians.

Israel launched an assault on Gaza after a Hamas-led militants attacked Israeli communities on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 240, according to Israeli authorities.

Almost 36,300 Palestinians have been killed and more than 82,000 injured in Israeli strikes and ground attacks, the majority of them women and children, according to Gaza authorities.

Updated: June 02, 2024, 3:43 PM