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Biden says Israel willing to halt war during Ramadan

UNB/AP . Jerusalem
27 Feb 2024 15:55:28 | Update: 27 Feb 2024 15:56:22
Biden says Israel willing to halt war during Ramadan
Palestinian Abdul Rahman Sharif holds the body of his four-year-old son Abdul Rahman Muamm, killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, during his funeral in Khan Younis, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 — AP Photo/Hatem Ali

President Joe Biden says 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 US, 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.

Biden's comments in an interview taped Monday for NBC's "Late Night With Seth Meyers" were the most detailed yet about a possible halt in fighting during the holy month, a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said earlier that the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for a ground offensive into Rafah, Gaza's southernmost town along the border with Egypt, where 1.4 million Palestinians have sought safety.

The situation in Rafah, where dense tent camps have sprouted to house the displaced, has sparked global concern and Israel's allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against Hamas.

The war began after Hamas-led militants stormed across southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 others hostage.

The war has unleashed a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry, which does not distinguish in its count between fighters and noncombatants.

Israel says it has killed 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.