Biden hopes for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza by Monday

Biden’s comments come as negotiations to end Israel’s devastating war on Gaza appear to gather pace.

United States President Joe Biden says he hopes to have a ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza by next Monday as negotiations to halt hostilities and secure the release of captives appear to gather pace.

Biden’s comments in New York came on Monday as Israeli media reported that an Israeli military delegation had flown to Qatar for intensive talks.

The negotiations – mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the US – seek to secure a six-week-long pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to allow aid into Gaza, where the United Nations says some 2.3 million people are on the brink of famine.

The proposed pause would also allow for the release of dozens of captives held by Hamas in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Biden, when asked when he thought a ceasefire could begin, said he hoped for a truce to take effect within days.

“Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, by the end of the weekend,” he told reporters at an ice cream shop in New York. “My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is, by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire.”

Biden gave more details of what such a deal could look like when asked about efforts to end the conflict by late-night television show host Seth Meyers.

The US leader said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is likely to begin on March 10 and end on April 9. “Ramadan’s coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” he said.

Israel has also committed, Biden added, to make it possible for Palestinians to evacuate before its planned assault on Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where 1.4 million people, many of them displaced by war, have sought safety.

He went on to warn that Israel risked losing international support due to the high death toll among Palestinians, and said overall, the “only way Israel ultimately survives” was to reach a deal that gives “peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians”.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, said Biden’s comments could be read as a message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“He may be trying to push parties in the talks and laying a mark or two for Netanyahu that, come Monday, there needs to be a ceasefire. And if there isn’t, the president will have looked publicly embarrassed by him, and that is not something that sits well with US presidents,” she said.

Biden’s comments could also be aimed at voters in the state of Michigan, which is due to hold its presidential primaries on Tuesday, said Culhane. Many Arab and Muslim American voters there have pledged to vote “uncommitted” on their ballots in protest of Biden’s support for Israel.

“The anger in Michigan is palpable,” said Culhane, noting that Biden’s emissaries to the Arab and Muslim community say the president cannot win Michigan unless there is a significant change in foreign policy.

“Biden won Michigan by more than 157,000 votes in the last election in 2020, and there are some 300,000 Arab and Muslim Americans in Michigan, not to mention young people of all races, all religions who are turning their backs on Biden. So they are very nervous,” she said.

Biden’s comments came a day after his NSA Jake Sullivan said representatives from Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the US discussed the terms of a ceasefire deal in Paris over the weekend and had come to “an understanding” about the contours of such an agreement.

The talks in the French capital did not include representatives from Hamas.

The Reuters news agency, citing Egyptian security sources, reported the Paris meeting would be followed by proximity talks involving delegates from Israel and Hamas, first in Qatar and later in Cairo.

Hamas has its political office in the Qatari capital, Doha.

In Qatar on Monday, the country’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met Hamas’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh and discussed efforts to reach an “immediate and durable ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip”, according to the Qatar News Agency.

Following the meeting, Haniyeh said Hamas welcomed mediators’ efforts to find an end to the war and accused Israel of stalling while the people of Gaza die under siege.

Israel, meanwhile, continues to maintain in public that it will not end the war until Hamas is eradicated and that its planned assault on Rafah will continue even if a ceasefire deal is reached.

Israel’s offensive on Gaza has killed 29,782 Palestinians since October 7, when Hamas launched surprise attacks inside southern Israel.

Some 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas offensive.

The armed group also took some 250 captives into Gaza.

More than 100 of the captives were released during a short-lived ceasefire in November, while some 132 remain in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies