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Biden unveils Israeli three-step plan to end war in Gaza

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East from the White House, May 31, 2024
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East from the White House, May 31, 2024 Copyright Evan Vucci/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Evan Vucci/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Biden unveiled three-phase Israeli proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza at the White House. Hamas has reacted positively to the deal but Biden acknowledged keeping it on track would be difficult.

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US President Joe Biden has said Hamas is "no longer capable" of carrying out another large-scale attack on Israel as he presented a "a road map to an enduring ceasefire" in the White House.

The ceasefire deal, proposed by Israel to Hamas, consists of three phases and could bring about an end to the devastating eight-month war in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians sift through the rubble of their home in the wake of an Israeli air and ground offensive in Jabaliya, May 31, 2024
Palestinians sift through the rubble of their home in the wake of an Israeli air and ground offensive in Jabaliya, May 31, 2024Enas Rami/Copyright 2024 The AP All rights reserved

"This is truly a decisive moment. Israel has made their proposal. Hamas says it wants a cease fire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it. Hamas needs to take the deal," said Biden in the White House.

Biden said the first phase of the proposed deal would last for six weeks and would include a "full and complete ceasefire", a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all populated areas of Gaza and the release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The second phase would include the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, and Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza.

And the third phase calls for the start of a major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding from the devastation caused by the war.

"It's time to begin this new stage. For hostages to come home. For Israel to be secure with the suffering to stop. It's time for this war to end. For the day after to begin," Biden said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Gaza ceasefire proposal

Hamas released a statement reacting positively to the deal, saying it was ready to engage "in a constructive manner" with any proposal based on a permanent end to the fighting.

But Biden acknowledged that keeping the Israeli proposal on track would be difficult, saying there were a number of "details to negotiate" to move from the first phase to the second.

One roadblock to overcome during the first phase would involve the two sides agreeing on the ratio of hostages to prisoners to be released.

There was also a positive response to the ceasefire deal in Brussels, with the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell posting on X that he supported efforts towards "an enduring ceasefire and the release of hostages leading to a permanent cessation of hostilities".

And EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she "wholeheartedly" agreed with the proposal, calling it "balanced and realistic". 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Gaza ceasefire proposal

Biden's remarks come as the Israeli military confirmed that its forces are now operating in central parts of Rafah in its expanding offensive in the southern Gaza city.

That offensive has prompted around 900,000 Palestinians to flee Rafah, seeking safer areas elsewhere in Gaza.

The World Food Programme Country Director in Palestine, Matthew Hollingworth, called that a "horrific experience" for Palestinians, with many already having been displaced several times.

"What we need, of course, is an immediate ceasefire," he said. "We desperately need to start helping people go beyond this day-to-day existence. That also means hostages need to be released. There needs to be no excuse for this war and no justification for this war to continue."

The Hamas-run health ministry says the total death toll in Gaza since 7 October now stands at 36,224, although officials don't distinguish between civilians and combatants.

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