Biden calls for an end to the Gaza war, supporting the Israeli ceasefire proposal

Friday's remarks were Biden's first public statements on the war since an Israeli attack and subsequent fire on Sunday killed at least 45 people, including children, and injured 249 in a camp for displaced people, according to health officials in Gaza. A visual analysis by The New York Times found that Israel used American-made bombs in the attack, forcing the White House to face tough questions about American responsibility for the rising death toll.

Mr Biden said on Friday he had seen “terrible images” of the deadly fire.

“The Palestinian people have endured hell in this war,” Biden said after describing the pain of those whose relatives were “massacred by Hamas terrorists on October 7” and the “anguish” of waiting Israeli families of the release of the hostages. .

Biden also said that too many innocent people have been killed in Gaza, “including thousands of children,” and addressed the many Americans who are enraged by the way his administration has handled the conflict.

“I know this is a topic that people in this country have deep and passionate beliefs about,” Biden added. “Me too. This was one of the most difficult and complicated problems in the world. There is nothing easy about this.”

In describing the four-and-a-half-page Israeli proposal, Biden said it would be divided into three phases. The first is expected to begin with a ceasefire of about six weeks, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas of Gaza and the release of elderly and women hostages held by Hamas, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian detainees. Biden said there are still details that need to be negotiated to move to the next phase, apparently including the number of Palestinians who will be released in exchange for each freed Israeli hostage.

In the second phase, as described by a senior administration official who briefed reporters after Biden's speech, all remaining Israeli hostages would be released, including the male soldiers. All hostilities would end and, according to the official, all Israeli forces would withdraw from Gaza. In the past, Netanyahu has publicly rejected a full withdrawal, arguing that it would lead to a resurgence of Hamas once again in control of the territory.

It is unclear from the description given to reporters in the briefing who would govern the territory, although the United States has said in the past that it would most likely be the Palestinian Authority, which has struggled to manage the West Bank.

In the third phase, the remains of dead hostages would be exchanged, rubble would be removed and a three- to five-year reconstruction period would begin, with support from the United States, Europe and international institutions. But that plan seemed almost ambitious, given the level of destruction and near-famine conditions.

Biden, however, described this road map as reasonable, if the terrorist group moves forward. “As long as Hamas lives up to its commitments, a temporary ceasefire will become, in the words of the Israeli proposal, a permanent cessation of hostilities,” Biden said.

American officials said they believed that following a meeting in Paris last weekend between William J. Burns, the director of the CIA, and David Barnea, the head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad, Israel had made significant concessions on hostage talks. These included reducing the number of live hostages required to be released in the initial phase.

However, a person briefed on the matter said negotiations are “on pause” while Israel conducts its operations in Rafah.

Mr Biden was also involved in the hostage talks, although he did not travel for any of the negotiating sessions. Biden's role, officials said, was particularly notable in the pressure he placed on Netanyahu to continue negotiating and reducing Israeli demands.

But on Friday, Biden was clearly focusing his pressure on Hamas, arguing that accepting this offer was their best chance to end the war and move toward a ceasefire.

“Everyone who wants peace must raise their voice now,” Biden said, adding that the public should let Hamas leaders know “that they should accept this deal. Work to make it real, make it lasting and forge a better future from the tragic terrorist attack and war.”

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting from Jerusalem, e Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

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