Israel and Hamas downplay Biden’s hope for a truce by Monday. Here’s where things stand.

Israel and Hamas have representatives in Qatar this week to work out the details of a proposed weeks-long pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip, with the war in its fifth month.

A truce could bring relief for Palestinians in the war-torn enclave, where the United Nations says a quarter of the population is one step away from famine. International pressure has been mounting on Israel to agree to a ceasefire as the death toll in Gaza approaches 30,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

The deal could also bring the release of some of the 130 remaining Israeli hostages kidnapped in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,200 people.

Earlier this week, President Biden expressed optimism for a truce as soon as “Monday,” a week ahead of the estimated March 10 start to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. However, Israel and Hamas remain more skeptical.

🤝What could the deal look like?

The Associated Press reports that a senior official from Egypt, which is helping to mediate the negotiations, says the proposal includes a pause in fighting for six weeks. Hamas would free 40 hostages, mostly women, minors, older people and those who are sick.

In exchange, Israel would release more than 300 Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Displaced Gaza residents, except for men of fighting age, would also be allowed to return home to certain areas of northern Gaza that were previously evacuated as a result of Israel’s ground offensive.

Aid deliveries would be increased to the war-torn region and facilitated by Israel, with about 300 to 500 trucks entering the enclave a day, the Egyptian official told the AP.

🇺🇸What has Biden said?

On Monday, President Biden was asked by a reporter when a possible Israel-Hamas ceasefire would begin while he made an appearance at a New York City ice cream shop with comedian Seth Meyers.

“Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, I mean the end of the weekend,” Biden responded. “My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. It’s not done yet. And my hope is by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire.”

Biden added during his appearance on Meyers’s late-night show, “Ramadan’s coming up and there has 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.”

🇮🇱What has Israel said?

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox & Friends, “Obviously, we want this deal if we can have it. It depends on Hamas. It’s really now their decision. They have to come down to reality.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant said in a press briefing Wednesday night that he did not want to comment on Biden’s remarks. “I really hope he’s right,” Gallant said.

With or without a temporary ceasefire, Netanyahu has said Israeli forces will invade Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip near Egypt’s border, where about 1.4 million Palestinians have sought refuge after being displaced by Israel’s military offensive.

🗣️What has Hamas said?

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the militant group is open to talks with Israel on a temporary ceasefire but that it was prepared to continue to fight. “Any flexibility we show in the negotiation process is a commitment to protecting the blood of our people, matched by a readiness to defend them,” Haniyeh said during a televised speech Wednesday.

Two senior Hamas officials also downplayed Biden’s optimistic timeline, according to Reuters. One told the news agency there are “still big gaps to be bridged.”

❌Where do the 2 sides disagree?

Since the start of the war, Israel has maintained it will consider only pauses in fighting, and the war will not end until Hamas is “eradicated.” Hamas has also long held that it will release all of the Israeli hostages only as part of a deal that brings a total end to the war in Gaza.

Additionally, Israel wants all female soldiers included in the first round of hostages released, but the AP reports Hamas is likely to push back as they view soldiers as more significant “bargaining chips.”

Hamas has also rejected both of Israel’s demands for the militant group to stop firing rockets at southern Israel.

Other sticking points concern “numbers, ratios and troop movements,” according to a Qatari spokesperson. CNN reports that likely involves the number of Israeli hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel as well as which parts of Gaza Israeli troops would withdraw from.

🇶🇦🇪🇬What have mediators said?

Qatar, the main mediator in these ceasefire talks, said hurdles still remain in order to reach a breakthrough. The United States and Egypt have also participated in the talks.

“We don’t have a final agreement on any of the issues that are hampering reaching an agreement,” said Majed Al Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “But we remain hopeful that we can get to some kind of agreement.”

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi echoed Biden’s optimism. “We hope that a ceasefire will be reached in the coming days to start a real relief for our people in the Gaza Strip in all fields,” Sisi said at an event in Cairo on Wednesday.

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