Biden sees Hamas as ‘only obstacle’ to Gaza deal, White House says

US President Joe Biden ‘confirmed Israel’s readiness to move forward’ in call with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike in Rafah
The proposal raises hopes of a halt to Israel’s eight-month deadly assault on the Gaza Strip [Abdel Kareem Hana/AP Photo]

US President Joe Biden has told Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that Hamas is the only obstacle to a Gaza ceasefire deal with Israel, and urged him to press the group to accept it.

Biden “affirmed that Hamas is now the only obstacle to a complete ceasefire” and “confirmed Israel’s readiness to move forward” with the terms he set out last week, the White House said in a readout of a call between the two leaders on Monday.

The Qatari Amiri Diwan confirmed that Sheikh Tamim received a call from the US president “to discuss efforts towards reaching a permanent Gaza ceasefire”, it said in a statement.

It added that the two leaders discussed “developments in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories”.

Qatar has played a key role in mediating indirect negations between Hamas and Israel, along with Egypt and the United States.

The ceasefire proposal includes a three-phase plan, with an exchange of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners, the evacuation of Israeli forces from Gaza, and the rebuilding of the devastated enclave.

The proposal excludes Hamas from remaining in power, something that the group has repeatedly rejected.

The G7 bloc of developed countries on Monday said it stood behind the proposal and called on Hamas to accept it.

“We, the Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7), fully endorse” the truce plan “that would lead to an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all hostages, a significant and sustained increase in humanitarian assistance for distribution throughout Gaza, and an enduring end to the crisis, with Israel’s security interests and Gazan civilian safety assured,” read the statement.

“We call on Hamas to accept this deal, that Israel is ready to move forward with, and we urge countries with influence over Hamas to help ensure that it does so,” it continued.

The G7 countries are the US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan has welcomed the truce plan but told Al Jazeera on Sunday that the group has yet to receive any written documents.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people, according to Palestinian health officials, causing widespread destruction and displacing 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million-strong population.

Gaza’s Government Media Office said on Monday that more than 3,500 children under the age of five are at risk of dying due to shortages of food, nutritional supplements and vaccinations, as Israel continued to severely restrict the entry of much-needed aid from entering Gaza.

Six-week ceasefire plan

The latest US-proposed deal begins with a six-week complete ceasefire that would see Israeli forces withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza, where famine has already taken hold in parts of the north.

Although Israel’s war cabinet has convened to discuss the proposal, it remains unclear whether they are on board.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu views the plan as “partial”, a government spokesman said earlier on Monday.

“The outline that President Biden presented is partial,” government spokesman David Mencer quoted Netanyahu as saying, adding in a press briefing that “the war will be stopped for the purpose of returning the hostages” after which discussions will follow on how to achieve Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas.

Netanyahu, in a separate statement issued by his office, said that “claims that we have agreed to a ceasefire without our conditions being met are incorrect”.

Family members of Israeli captives held in Gaza have called on the Israeli government to accept the plan and urged Netanyahu to publicly support the proposal. They have been protesting for months against the government, and repeatedly called on it to accept previous deals that were indirectly negotiated.

Israel’s military on Monday confirmed the deaths of four more hostages held in Gaza, naming them as Haim Perry, Yoram Metzger, Amiram Cooper and Nadav Popplewell.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said: “We assess that the four of them were killed while together in the area of Khan Younis during our operation there against Hamas.”

Earlier this month, Hamas approved a proposal for a ceasefire put forward by mediators Qatar and Egypt, but Israel again said the proposal falls short of its demands.

Israel is coming under growing international pressure to stop its assault and is becoming increasingly isolated.

An International Court of Justice order for it to stop its offensive on the southern Gaza city of Rafah has not stopped Israel from continuing to launch attacks on the overcrowded area, where it is also expanding a ground operation.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies