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

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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 the parties are “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 investigation.

Israeli officials said that crowds flooded the aid convoy and attacked the trucks, and said troops fired “a few warning shots in the air” meant as crowd control. Israeli officials blamed the ensuing casualties on a stampede.

However, Palestinian officials said Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd, an account corroborated by eyewitnesses and doctors, who said many of the dead and the injured were brought in with bullet wounds. “Suddenly, without any warning, the Israeli tanks started firing,” an eyewitness told The Post.

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 the airdrop plan, “and you saw the response when they tried to get aid.”

Critics say airdrops are expensive and ineffective, and argue diplomatic efforts should be focused on opening Gaza’s border crossing to allow aid convoys access. “I think the airdrop is a last resort, extraordinarily expensive way of providing assistance,” Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the principal U.N. agency for Palestinian affairs, told reporters earlier this week.

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 Israel Defense Forces directed queries to the prime minister’s office, which declined to 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 30,320 people have been killed and 71,533 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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