Biden Says Israel Is Open to Ceasefire During Ramadan if Hostage-Release Deal Is Reached

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Biden Says Israel Is Open to Ceasefire During Ramadan if Hostage-Release Deal Is Reached

United States President Joe Biden said Israel would be willing to halt its war on Hamas in Gaza during the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some of the hostages held by the militants.

Negotiators from the U.S., Egypt and Qatar are working on a framework deal under which Hamas would free some of the dozens of hostages it holds, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and a six-week halt in fighting. During the temporary pause, negotiations would continue over the release of the remaining hostages.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to Biden’s comments, released for publication early Tuesday.

Read More: What Gaza Reveals About the Limits of American Power

The start of Ramadan, around March 10, is seen as an unofficial deadline for a ceasefire deal. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.

Biden said Monday that he hopes a ceasefire deal could take effect by next week. During a pause, negotiations would continue over the release of the remaining hostages and the release of additional Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

“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.

At the same time, Biden did not call for an end to the war, which was triggered by the deadly Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

He left open the door to an eventual Israeli ground offensive in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, on the border with Egypt, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has fled under Israeli evacuation orders.

The prospect of an invasion of Rafah has prompted global alarm over the fate of Gaza civilians trapped there. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said a ground operation in Rafah is an inevitable component of Israel’s strategy for crushing Hamas.

Read More: Why Rafah Marks a Turning Point in the Gaza War

Biden said Monday that he believes Israel has slowed its bombardment of Rafah: “They have to, and they have made a commitment to me that they’re going to see to it that there’s an ability to evacuate significant portions of Rafah before they go and take out the remainder Hamas … but it’s a process.”

—Goldberg reported from Tel Aviv. Shurafa reported from Rafah, Gaza Strip.

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