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Biden says it is “time for this war to end” as he presents Israeli ceasefire proposal

US President Joe Biden stated this Friday (31) that Hamas has been degraded to the point that it can no longer carry out the type of attack that launched the current eight-month conflict in Gaza, presenting a three-phase proposal which Israel presented to ease the growing crisis by declaring: “It is time for this war to end.”

It was perhaps the furthest Biden went in telling Israel that its stated objectives for its Gaza operation have been achieved and that the time has come to stop the fighting as part of a hostage agreement.

“At this point, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another October 7th, just one of Israel’s main objectives in this war, and frankly fair,” Biden said at the White House.

He had just presented a three-phase Israeli proposal that would combine the release of hostages with a “total and complete ceasefire,” a plan that he said presented the best hope for bringing peace to Gaza.

“This is truly a defining moment,” he said.

Biden said the Israeli proposal was transmitted this week. The first phase it would last six weeks and include the “withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza” and the “release of several hostages, including women, the elderly and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.”

He said that phase 2 would allow the “exchange for the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers.”

“And as long as Hamas meets its commitments, the temporary ceasefire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposals, 'the permanent cessation of hostilities,'” Biden said.

In phase 3 the president said, “a major reconstruction plan for Gaza would begin and any remains of dead hostages would be returned to their families.”

Less than an hour after Biden detailed the Israeli proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that the country would not end the war until Hamas was defeated.

“The Israeli government is united in the desire to return our hostages as quickly as possible and is working to achieve this goal,” the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

“Therefore, the Prime Minister has authorized the negotiating team to present an outline to achieve this objective, while insisting that the war will not end until all its objectives are achieved, including the return of all our hostages and the elimination of Hamas military and government forces.”

The Prime Minister's Office insisted that the “exact outline” of Israel's proposal allows the country to “maintain these principles”.

Shortly after the statement was released, it was announced that the four main Congress leaders had formally invited Netanyahu to speak at a joint meeting of Congress, although no date was specified for it.

Hamas released a statement on Friday saying it viewed the proposal positively.

“The Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement views positively what was included in today's speech by US President Joe Biden,” the statement said.

“The movement affirms its position of readiness to deal positively and constructively with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, the complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, reconstruction, the return of displaced people to all their places of residence and the conclusion of a serious prisoner exchange agreement if the occupation declares its explicit commitment to this.”

Former President Barack Obama, in a rare statement on current events, said the ceasefire proposal is “clear, realistic and fair.”

“A ceasefire alone will not ease the terrible pain of Israelis whose loved ones were massacred or kidnapped by Hamas, or Palestinians whose families were torn apart by the ensuing war,” Obama said.

“It will not resolve the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, nor will it answer contentious issues surrounding a two-state solution or continued settler activity in the West Bank. But what it can do is end the ongoing bloodshed, help families reunite and enable a surge of humanitarian aid to help desperate and hungry people.”

“Almost identical to Hamas’ own proposals”

Israel's four-and-a-half-page proposal was presented to Hamas on Thursday night, a senior U.S. government official said, and corresponds closely to an agreement the group itself recently proposed.

“It is almost identical to Hamas' own proposals from just a few weeks ago. So if that’s what Hamas wants, they can accept the deal,” the official said.

Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas over securing the hostages' release broke down three weeks ago after the sides were unable to reach agreement on some of the terms.

On Thursday, Hamas said it informed mediators that it is “prepared to reach a comprehensive agreement” that includes a full hostage and prisoner exchange agreement if Israel stops its war in Gaza.

A statement from the group said it demonstrated “flexibility and positivity in dealing with the efforts of mediators throughout all previous rounds of indirect negotiations.”

Israel, Hamas said, used the months of ongoing talks as cover to continue its war in Gaza.

“Hamas and the Palestinian factions will not accept being part of this policy of continuous negotiations in the face of aggression, killing, siege, hunger and genocide of our people,” the Hamas statement said.

Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted that the war must continue until Hamas is destroyed.

In his White House speech, Biden acknowledged divisions within Israel that could prevent a hostage deal from being reached.

“I know there are people in Israel who will not agree with this plan and will call for the war to continue indefinitely. Some, some are even part of the government coalition,” he said, in an unsubtle reference to hardliners in Netanyahu’s government who resisted efforts to mediate an end to the conflict.

“They have made it clear that they want to occupy Gaza. They want to keep fighting for years and hostages are not a priority for them,” Biden said.

Although he did not mention anyone in his speech, Biden had already named National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir as one of the members of Netanyahu's government coalition who are hindering any progress.

Blinken briefs his counterparts on the proposal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday briefed his counterparts from Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia on the Israeli proposal.

Phone calls from the US's top diplomat, made from his plane as he returned to Washington after a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) foreign ministers in Prague, are expected to be just the beginning of diplomatic pressure designed to get Hamas to accept the deal.

Blinken is expected to take more calls with his colleagues this Saturday, a senior State Department official said.

In his calls on Friday, Blinken described “the benefits of the deal” and guided “foreign ministers on the deal that was sent to Hamas last night, making sure they understand the benefits for the Palestinian people, the benefits for Israel and the benefits for the long-term security plans that we are working on,” the official told reporters traveling with Blinken.

Blinken said the ball is in Hamas's court to accept the deal without delay, and specifically emphasized that countries with ties to Hamas — Turkey — should urge the group to accept the deal.

The official stressed that the proposal is “materially different” from previous proposals because it would lead to a permanent ceasefire.

The official said the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan were not briefed on the specific terms of the proposed deal prior to their calls with Blinken.

Blinken said part of the reason the US made the terms of the deal public was to prevent any inaccurate information from leaking, potentially putting the proposal at risk.

“It is important that the entire world knows the details of this proposal,” said the official.

Appeal for Israeli public support

In his speech, Biden made a direct appeal to ordinary Israelis to express their support for a hostage agreement that would result in a ceasefire.

“I need your help. Everyone who wants peace now must raise their voice and inform the leaders that they must accept this agreement. Work to make it real, lasting and forge a better future after the tragic terrorist attack and war,” he said.

Biden also spoke directly to Americans who criticized the violence in Gaza, admitting that too many civilians were killed and calling the situation “one of the most difficult and complicated problems in the world”.

“We all saw the horrific images of a deadly fire in Rafah earlier this week following an Israeli strike against Hamas,” Biden said, in his first comments since an attack left dozens of civilians dead.

“Even as we work to increase assistance to Gaza the humanitarian crisis still persists.”

The president, who returned to the White House from his beach house in Delaware early in the morning, avoided commenting on the situation in Israel for several days.

On Friday, Israel said its forces entered the center of Rafah, the city in southern Gaza that Biden warned should not be targeted in a major ground offensive.

The White House called images of the disaster “heartbreaking” but said the incident did not cross Biden’s red line for withholding some U.S. arms shipments to Israel.

The president told Erin Burnett of CNN in an interview this month, that he would limit some US weapons to Israel if the country's military “entered Rafah.”

But he has remained vague about how he will quantify such a decision, leading to frustration and a degree of confusion about his position.

Many Democrats, along with foreign leaders the U.S. considers allies, say Israel's actions clearly cross a red line — if not Biden's, then their own and those of international law.

White House officials this week sought to explain Biden's position, suggesting that his barometer for policy change would be a “major ground invasion” of the city.

(Jeremy Diamond, Hamdi Alkhshali, Kareem Khadder, Annie Grayer, AnneClaire Stapleton and Jennifer Hansler, from CNN contributed to this text)

Source: CNN Brasil

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