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US hoping Gaza ceasefire deal in place by next week, lasting through Ramadan

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NEW YORK — US President Joe Biden said Monday (Tuesday in Manila) he hoped a ceasefire in Gaza could start by the beginning of next week, adding that Israel was ready to halt operations during the Muslim month of Ramadan as part of any deal.

Amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory, representatives from Egypt, Qatar, the United States, France and others have acted as go-betweens for Israel and Hamas, seeking a halt to the fighting and the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Asked during an election campaign trip to New York when such an agreement might start, Biden replied: “I hope by the end of the weekend.”

“My national security advisor tells me that we’re close, we’re close, we’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire,” Biden told reporters.

Biden, 81, gave more details of what a deal could look like when he spoke on the issue in an interview with late-night US television show host Seth Meyers.

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“There is a path forward, with difficulty,” he told Meyers when asked about how to end the conflict.

Mediators have been hoping to get a deal in place before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in about two weeks.

“Ramadan’s coming up and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said.

Biden has previously spoken of a six-week ceasefire.

The US president said such a deal “gives us time to begin to move in directions that a lot of Arab countries are prepared to move” in terms of normalizing relations with Israel.

“I think that if we get that temporary ceasefire, we’re going to be able to move in a direction where we can change the dynamic,” he said.

Biden has firmly supported Israel despite the soaring death toll in its offensive in Gaza following the deadly Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7.

But he has been increasing pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to limit civilian casualties, particularly in Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah.

Israel had “made a commitment” to evacuate significant parts of Rafah before they “go and take out the remainder of Hamas,” Biden added.

But overall Biden warned that the “only way Israel ultimately survives” was to reach a deal that gives “peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Amid mounting tensions with Netanyahu, Biden told Meyers that if Israel continued with its “incredibly conservative government they have… they’re going to lose support from around the world.”

Biden’s comments come after his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday that representatives from several parties — although not Gaza’s rulers Hamas — met in Paris over the weekend and reached an understanding about the “basic contours” of a temporary ceasefire.

Israel’s military campaign has killed at least 29,782 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the ministry.

The war broke out after Hamas launched their unprecedented attack which killed 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.

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