“It’s time for the war to end,” the US President said. 

Biden presents new Israel ceasefire plan, calls on Hamas to accept it
US President Joe Biden arrives to board Air Force One at Dover Air Force Base, Dover, Delaware, on May 31, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)

01 Jun 2024 02:16AM (Updated: 01 Jun 2024 02:17AM)

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden on Friday (May 31) called on Hamas militants to agree to a new offer from Israel on releasing hostages in exchange for a Gaza ceasefire, saying this is the best way to begin winding down the deadly conflict.

“With a ceasefire, that aid could be safely and effectively distributed to all who need it,” Biden said.

“As someone who’s had a lifelong commitment to Israel, as the only American president who has ever gone to Israel at a time of war, as someone who just sent the US forces to directly defend Israel when it was attacked by Iran, I ask you to take a step back, think what will happen if this moment is lost,” he said. “We can’t lose this moment.”

A woman carries belongings on her head, as Palestinians inspect the damage after Israeli forces withdrew from Jabalia refugee camp, following a raid, in the northern Gaza Strip, May 31, 2024. (Photo: REUTERS/Mahmoud Issa)

An earlier hostage proposal put forward earlier this year called for the release of sick, elderly and wounded hostages in Gaza in exchange for a six-week ceasefire that could be extended to allow for more humanitarian aid to be delivered into the enclave.

The proposed deal fell apart earlier this month after Israel refused to agree to a permanent end to the war as part of the negotiations and ramped up an assault on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

Hamas said on Thursday it had told mediators it would not take part in more negotiations during ongoing aggression but was ready for a “complete agreement”, including an exchange of hostages and prisoners if Israel stopped the war.

Talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar and others to arrange a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist movement in the Gaza war have repeatedly stalled, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan would meet on Friday with diplomats from 17 countries who have citizens held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.

Israel will not agree to any halt in fighting that is not part of a deal that includes the return of surviving hostages, a senior Israeli security official said on Friday.

Overshadowing Biden was an Israeli airstrike in Rafah on Sunday that killed 45 Palestinians.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday that recent Israeli ground operations in Rafah would not prompt a US withdrawal of more military aid.

Palestinian health authorities estimate more than 36,280 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel attacked the enclave in response to an Oct 7 Hamas assault in southern Israel. The Hamas attack killed around 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies .

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