Biden Details 3-Phase Hostage Deal to Wind Down Middle East War

President Joe Biden on Friday outlined a three-phase deal proposed by Israel to Hamas militants, which he believes could lead to the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza and bring an end to the nearly 8-month-old Middle East war. Biden stressed that Hamas is “no longer capable” of executing another large-scale attack on Israel and urged both sides to come to an agreement to release the remaining hostages for an extended ceasefire.

In a speech from the White House, Biden described the proposal as “a road map to an enduring cease-fire and the release of all hostages.” The first phase involves a six-week period of complete ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from densely populated Gaza areas, and the release of hostages, including women, the elderly, and the wounded, in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. This phase would also see a significant increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The second phase includes the release of all remaining hostages and a further withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, aiming to turn the temporary ceasefire into a permanent cessation of hostilities. The third phase focuses on the reconstruction of Gaza, devastated by the ongoing conflict.

Biden acknowledged the challenges in keeping the Israeli proposal on track, noting the complexity of negotiations, including the ratio of hostages to prisoners for release. He emphasized that this moment is decisive and an opportunity for Hamas to demonstrate their willingness for peace.

The Israeli military confirmed operations in central Rafah as part of their expanded offensive. Despite Biden’s calls for ending the war, Israeli officials reiterated their commitment to defeating Hamas militarily. Netanyahu’s office expressed support for the hostage deal but maintained that the war’s objectives must be met.

Hamas responded positively to Biden’s proposal, seeking an explicit commitment from Israel for a permanent ceasefire and complete troop withdrawal. The conflict has drawn international criticism due to the high civilian toll in Gaza.

Biden also addressed internal Israeli opposition to ending the war, urging Israeli leadership to support the deal. He did not mention Palestinian statehood in his remarks, despite its importance for long-term peace, and noted ongoing efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The conflict escalated following Hamas’ October 7 attack, which resulted in significant casualties and hostages. Previous ceasefire talks faltered, but the new proposal closely aligns with recent Hamas demands, presenting a potential path forward.

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