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President Biden says Israel has agreed to cease-fire, Hamas says deal not done

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President Biden said Israel has agreed to a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, but Hamas is not prepared to call a truce.

The president’s remarks were recorded Monday and aired early Tuesday on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” He suggested that a cease-fire during Ramadan would give the U.S. time to secure the release of American hostages still held by Hamas, but officials from the terrorist group called his comments premature as it studies the cease-fire agreement. 

“Ramadan is 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 told Meyers.

Earlier, the president told reporters he hoped that a cease-fire would begin by at least “the end of the weekend.” 

BIDEN ON ICE CREAM OUTING WITH SETH MEYERS SAYS HE HOPES FOR GAZA CEASE-FIRE BY ‘END OF THE WEEKEND’

Tank and smoke

An Israeli tank returns from the southern Gaza strip, in southern Israel, on Feb. 26, 2024. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

“At least, my national security advisor tells me that we’re close. We’re close. It’s not done yet,” Biden said at an ice cream parlor near Peacock Network’s headquarters after recording his interview with Meyers. 

“And my hope is by next Monday, we’ll have a cease-fire,” he added, mint ice cream cone in hand. 

Hamas is reviewing a proposal agreed at a meeting in Paris last week between Israel, the United States and mediators from Egypt and Qatar, the most serious push for a cease-fire since the last truce collapsed after a week in November. 

While Biden struck an optimistic tone about the prospects for a truce, two Hamas officials who spoke to Reuters said his comments were premature.

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President Biden descends stairs from Air Force One

President Joe Biden arrives at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, on Feb. 26, 2024. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)

One official said there were “still big gaps to be bridged,” according to Reuters. “The primary and main issues of the cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces are not clearly stated, which delays reaching an agreement.”

Another Hamas official close to the talks told Reuters that the draft proposal sent to Hamas was for a 40-day truce during which Hamas would free around 40 hostages — including women, those under 19 or over 50 years old, and the sick — in return for around 400 Palestinian detainees at a 10-for-one ratio.

Under the proposal, Israel would reposition its troops outside settled areas. Gaza residents, except for men of fighting age, would be permitted to return home to areas previously evacuated, and more aid would flow to Gaza, including equipment to house those who have lost their homes. 

But Israel has not agreed to two key demands from Hamas — a commitment to end the war permanently and withdraw from Palestinian territory. 

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President Biden eats ice cream with Seth Meyers

President Joe Biden eats ice cream at Van Leeuwen Ice Cream on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in New York, as Seth Meyers watches.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The offer also does not address the release of Israeli hostages who are soldiers or healthy men of fighting age, or a Hamas demand for as many as 1,500 detainees to be freed, Reuters reported.

Delegations from Hamas and Israel are both in Qatar this week negotiating details of a potential cease-fire. They face an unofficial March 10 deadline, which would mark the start of Ramadan, a period that often sees heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions. 

Biden told NBC that Israel risks losing international support unless it takes steps to mitigate civilian casualties. 

 has said Israel will invade the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, where 2.3 million Palestinians currently reside, including displaced people sleeping in makeshift tents or public buildings, whether or not a truce agreement is reached.

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“There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said, adding that Israel has committed to let Palestinians flee Rafah before the invasion. 

Netanyahu earlier rejected as “delusional” a Hamas counter-offer for a cease-fire in which all hostages would be released, Israel withdraws from Gaza and Israel and Hamas sign a treaty to end the war. 

The president also said a temporary cease-fire would create the conditions necessary for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“That gives us time to begin to move in directions that a lot of Arab countries are prepared to move in. For example, Saudi Arabia is ready to recognize Israel. Jordan is. Egypt — there are six other states. I’ve been working with Qatar,” Biden said.

“If we get … that temporary cease-fire, we’re going to be able to move in a direction where we can change the dynamic and not have a two-state solution immediately but a process to get to a two-state solution, a process to guarantee Israel’s security and the independence of the Palestinians,” he said.

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Netanyahu has rejected a two-state solution while Hamas exists. Israel has vowed to continue the war until the terrorist group is eradicated.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, that provoked the war. Israel retaliated with a bombardment campaign and ground invasion of Gaza, during which tens of thousands of Palestinians have died. 

Fox News Digital’s Bradford Betz and Reuters contributed to this report.

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