Biden Pushes for Ceasefire in Gaza Amidst Reports of Continued Fighting and Diplomatic Efforts


by Ifi Reporter Category:Government Feb 9, 2024

In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, senior intelligence officers from the US military have indicated that while Israel has managed to damage Hamas's fighting capabilities, complete destruction remains elusive, according to reports from The New York Times. While estimates of casualties among Hamas fighters were not provided publicly, private conversations suggested significant losses.

President Joe Biden addressed the situation, labeling the military conduct in Gaza as "excessive" and expressing his efforts to broker a prolonged pause in the fighting. Biden revealed ongoing discussions with leaders from Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, aiming to increase humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza and secure a ceasefire.

During a press conference addressing various matters, Biden highlighted his engagement with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, urging for humanitarian aid access into Gaza and emphasizing the need for a ceasefire. Biden also mentioned his prior engagement with Saudi Arabia regarding the normalization process with Israel, hinting at commitments related to defense cooperation.

However, the US State Department and the White House expressed concerns over reported Israeli plans for an operation in Rafah, cautioning against actions without proper planning due to potential humanitarian consequences. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken conveyed these concerns during his visit to the region.

Meanwhile, within Israel's security establishment, discussions are intensifying over potential ground maneuvers in Rafah, with Defense Minister Yoav Galant considering actions to dismantle Hamas strongholds. Military plans also include further operations in northern Gaza.

In a separate development, alarms sounded in settlements in Israel's Upper Galilee following rocket launches from Lebanon, allegedly by Hezbollah. The IDF prepared to respond, and Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, targeting an air force base near Mount Miron.

The situation remains tense as diplomatic efforts continue alongside military operations in Gaza and responses to cross-border attacks, underscoring the complexity and volatility of the region.

Hamas responded on Tuesday evening to the outline for the release of the abductees, which was presented to it. According to the terrorist organization, the response was in a "positive spirit", but demanded a total ceasefire, an end to the war, a promise of humanitarian aid, the restoration of the Strip and the lifting of the "siege" on the Strip. On behalf of the Mossad, it was stated that "Hamas' answer was delivered by the Qatari mediator, its details are being studied in depth by all the parties involved in the negotiations."
A source privy to the details stated that the Prime Minister of Qatar, Muhammad Abdel-Rahman Al-Thani, spoke earlier this evening with the head of the Mossad, David Barna, and then handed him the document with Hamas's response. According to him, this is a very detailed document with references to each of the clauses of the proposal that was drawn up at the summit in Paris and that was forwarded to Hamas. An Israeli official added: "Hamas' answer has better and worse things, in any case it is just a starting point for negotiations."
US President Joe Biden claimed that Hamas' response was "excessive", but added that there had been little progress. "We're not sure where it's going, we're continuing negotiations," said the American president at the end of his speech at the White House on the aid package for Ukraine and Israel. The Prime Minister of Qatar defined the answer of Hamas as "positive", and said that they had comments.

According to the outline presented to Hamas, in the first phase of the deal, about 40 Israeli abductees will be released, including women, men over 60 and abductees in serious medical condition. This, in exchange for a six-week lull in fighting and the release of Palestinian prisoners. In the outline that was presented, only the first phase is detailed, while the next two phases are described only in general with the intention of having separate talks about them during the sixth week of the ceasefire. "The goal is to enter phase A with a statement on phases B and C without closing them down in great detail," said an Israeli senior official.
The second phase of the deal will include the release of soldiers and civilians under the age of 60, in the third phase the bodies of abductees held by Hamas will be transferred. In each of the stages, a different "key" will be determined for the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released for each Israeli abductee. The duration of the truce in the second and third phases has not yet been defined and will be determined in negotiations, but senior Israeli officials estimated that it would be long weeks of ceasefire.
An unusual meeting in Tel Aviv, with the participation of a Palestinian Authority official: the security establishment wants to "calm the area" before the month of Ramadan, which will spread this year especially in light of the war in the Gaza Strip. As part of these efforts, an extraordinary secret meeting was held this evening (Tuesday) in Tel Aviv between the head of the National Security Council Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of the Shin Bet Ronan Bar, the coordinator of government operations in the territories Major General Rasan Aliyan and the senior Palestinian Authority Hussein al-Sheikh.
Ramadan will fall this year around March 10, and at the meeting - revealed on News 12 - representatives of the Shin Bet were present, with Bar himself participating in it for a very short period of time. The parties discussed ways to calm the area, including the introduction of Palestinian laborers aged 45 and over subject to a security investigation and under restrictive conditions. - Sheikh said that bringing in the workers is necessary to ease the economic hardship in the territories of the Palestinian Authority. A decision to bring in the workers, we will recall, was rejected in the political-security cabinet under pressure from the ministers, despite the position of the Prime Minister who supported it.
The security establishment warns that many Palestinians who worked in Israel until October 7 have been sitting at home for four months, accumulating "resentment and frustration" in view of their inability to provide for their families. The Shin Bet recently warned the political echelon of a broad escalation in Judea and Samaria if thousands of Palestinian workers are not brought in. Meanwhile, ministers Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gabir, Nir Barkat and many others stand by their opposition, and about 100,000 workers are not allowed to enter Israel. Every day , we note, 9,000 Palestinian laborers enter to work in the settlements, and almost 5,000 enter Israel to work in essential places.
The Shin Bet and the army see the entry of the operatives as a deterrent to the IOS arena, while the police, on the other hand, warn that this could lead to terrorist attacks in the heart of the country. The discussion was conducted in the security and economic cabinets, until it got stuck.
Another question that is on the agenda is whether to allow Palestinians from the West Bank to enter the Temple Mount for Ramadan prayers this year. Last year, 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank entered the Temple Mount, while this year the police position is to allow zero Palestinians from the West Bank. Already it appears that such a large number of Palestinian worshipers will not be allowed to enter the Temple Mount as last year, but the army favors a certain amount of entry of Palestinians from the West Bank to the Mount.
The recommendation of the police under Minister Ben Gabir will have significant weight in the decision, since most of the violent unrest on the Temple Mount has been led in recent years by Arabs from East Jerusalem. Another significant relief for Palestinians from recent years, which will be decided by the cabinet, concerns the entry of tens to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank into Israeli territory, for trips and visits to places such as Jaffa, Acre and West Jerusalem.
It will be made clear to the political level that in Muslim culture it is acceptable to take advantage of Ramadan for a period of shopping, entertainment and spending, and the absence of this element may leave the Palestinians at home in the West Bank, and also without a livelihood due to the ban on bringing about 100,000 laborers to Israel. If the cabinet continues to ban the entry of the workers and even orders the restriction of movement in Ramadan, they will clarify at the security level that these two prohibitions could lead to violent disturbances during the month of Ramadan and an increase in the number of alerts for terrorist attacks.
"From the beginning of the war, Hamas has been trying to drag the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, in East Jerusalem and the Israeli Arabs in the rear into violence and terrorism - and so far it has not succeeded. Ramadan, as a unifying and important event for all Muslims, could be the first and real opportunity for Hamas to succeed in this if we do not behave professionally and wisely." security officials said.



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