Biden says Israel, Hamas ‘not there yet’ on cease-fire negotiations

Biden says Israel, Hamas ‘not there yet’ on cease-fire negotiations

President Biden told reporters Friday that he’s still hoping a cease-fire deal will be reached between Israel and Hamas by the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which starts around March 10, but “we’re not there yet.”

Asked what needs to happen in the negotiations, he said there has to be agreement on the timing, and “they’re still far apart.”

After an aid convoy delivery turned deadly Thursday in Gaza City, resulting in the deaths of 115 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, Biden said the event would complicate negotiations over a potential pause in fighting that would allow the release of those hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Thursday’s incident has drawn global condemnation, with France, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom calling for an independent investigation. After crowds flooded the aid convoy, Israeli officials blamed the ensuing casualties on a stampede. Gaza officials, however, in accounts corroborated by eyewitnesses and doctors, blamed Israeli fire.

Desperation and death surround an aid delivery in northern Gaza

Humanitarian aid has been scant in the northern part of Gaza, where aid groups are warning of imminent famine. With access to the enclave restricted, the United States announced Friday that it would start airdropping aid into Gaza, an expensive and logistically complicated tactic that Jordan, France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have already taken up and which Canada said it is also considering.

“Innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families,” Biden said Friday while announcing airdrop plan, “and you saw the response when they tried to get aid.”

Here’s what else to know

A United Nations statement said that the “worst famine fears” have been realized after the Gaza Health Ministry said that 10 children have died of malnutrition and dehydration in northern Gaza. World Health Organization spokesperson Christian Lindmeier called it a “very sad threshold” in the statement and noted that “unofficial numbers can unfortunately be expected to be higher.”

Hamas said Friday that seven Israeli hostages had been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. According to the Israeli government, 253 people were believed to be abducted during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. In total, 112 hostages been released and before Hamas’s recent announcement, Israeli government figures suggested 99 living hostages remain in Gaza. The Israeli military did not respond to request for comment.

The European Union said it will release 50 million euros ($54 million) to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees next week, after several countries, including the United States, paused funding following allegations from Israel that some of its employees were involved in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks. Top E.U. diplomat Josep Borrell commended the United Nations’ “efforts to investigate the allegations” and called “on Israeli authorities to provide evidences.” The step acknowledges UNRWA as “irreplaceable actor,” he said.

At least 30,228 people have been killed and 71,377 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says 242 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

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