Biden outlines three-phase proposal for Gaza ceasefire and hostage release

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

Biden added that Hamas is “no longer capable” of carrying out another large-scale attack on Israel, urging both sides to agree on the deal for an extended ceasefire and the release of hostages.

The proposal, described by Biden as “a roadmap to an enduring ceasefire and the release of all hostages,” involves three phases.

The first phase, expected to last for six weeks, includes a full and complete ceasefire in Gaza, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from densely populated areas, and the release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly, and the wounded, in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. During this period, American hostages would be released, and the remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families. Humanitarian assistance would surge, with 600 trucks being allowed into Gaza each day.

The second phase would involve the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. As long as Hamas adheres to its commitments, the temporary ceasefire would become a permanent cessation of hostilities.

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. This phase is expected to take three to five years and would be fully backed by the US, the international community, and other unspecified parties. The third phase would also include the exchange of any additional hostage remains still held in Gaza.

Biden stressed the importance of this deal, emphasizing the need to end the war and begin reconstruction efforts. He acknowledged the challenges in keeping the proposal on track, with key issues like the ratio of hostages to prisoners to be resolved during the first phase.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office reiterated its commitment to continue the offensive in Gaza until all war goals are achieved, including the return of all hostages and the elimination of Hamas’ capabilities. However, Netanyahu authorized his negotiating team to present an outline for achieving these goals, particularly the hostages’ release.

Hamas expressed a positive view of the proposal and called for Israel to commit to a permanent ceasefire and complete withdrawal of troops from Gaza.

Biden urged Israeli leaders to support the deal, despite opposition from some members of Netanyahu’s coalition who prefer continued military action over negotiating with Hamas.

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