Biden details a 3-phase hostage deal aimed at winding down the Israel-Gaza war

The Democratic president in remarks from the White House called the proposal "a road map to an enduring cease-fire and the release of all hostages."
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Associated Press

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday detailed a three-phase deal proposed by Israel to Hamas militants that he says would lead to the release of remaining hostages in Gaza and could end the grinding, nearly 8-month-old Mideast war.

Biden added that Hamas is "no longer capable" of carrying out another large-scale attack on Israel as he urged Israelis and Hamas to come to a deal to release remaining hostages for an extended cease-fire.

The Democratic president in remarks from the White House called the proposal "a road map to an enduring cease-fire and the release of all hostages."

Biden said the first phase of the proposed deal would would last for six weeks and would include a "full and complete cease-fire," 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.

American hostages would be released at this stage, and remains of hostages who have been killed, would be returned to their families. Humanitarian assistance would surge during the first phase, with 600 trucks being allowed into Gaza each day.

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

"And as long as Hamas lives up to its commitments, the temporary cease-fire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposals, 'the cessation of hostilities permanently,'" Biden said.

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

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

Biden's remarks came 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. Biden called it "a truly a decisive moment." He added that Hamas said it wants a cease-fire and that an Israeli-phased deal is an opportunity to prove "whether they really mean it."

Israel's brutal war in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people including more than 15,000 children. in launched its war in Gaza after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

Cease-fire talks ground to a halt at the beginning of the month after a major push by the U.S. and other mediators to secure a deal, in hopes of averting a planned Israeli invasion of the southern city of Rafah. The talks were stymied by a central sticking point: Hamas demands guarantees that the war will end and Israeli troops will withdraw from Gaza completely in return for a release of all the hostages, a demand Israel rejects.

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