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Biden: Israel agrees to halt military activity over Ramadan, risks losing world support


NEW YORK, Feb 27 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said Israel has agreed not to engage in military activities during Ramadan in the Gaza Strip, where it is at war with Hamas militants, and said the Jewish state risked losing support from the rest of the world as Palestinians die in high numbers.

Biden, who made his remarks during an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” said Israel had committed to make it possible for Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah in Gaza’s south before intensifying its campaign there to destroy Hamas.

Biden, whose remarks were recorded on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday, said there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between the two sides while hostages were released.

“Ramadan is 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.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2024 is expected to begin on the evening of March 10th, 2024, and end on the evening of April 9th, 2024.

Biden said a temporary ceasefire would ease relationships with Israel’s neighbors and jumpstart a process for Palestinians to have their own state.

“That gives us time to begin to move in directions that a lot of Arab countries are prepared to move in. For example, Saudi Arabia is ready to recognize Israel. Jordan is. Egypt — there are six other states. I’ve been working with Qatar,” Biden said.

“If we get … that temporary ceasefire, we’re going to be able to move in a direction where we can change the dynamic and not have a two-state solution immediately but a process to get to a two-state solution, a process to guarantee Israel’s security and the independence of the Palestinians,” he said.

Biden said on Monday he hoped to have a ceasefire in the conflict by the following Monday.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the idea of a two state solution.

Biden, a Democrat who is running for re-election this year, has seen support among young Americans and left-leaning progressive voters sink as a result of his staunch support for Israel and sky high death tolls among Palestinian civilians.

After Hamas killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on Oct. 7, Israel launched a ground assault on Gaza, with nearly 30,000 people confirmed killed, according to Gaza health authorities.

Israel risked losing support from the rest of the world, said the U.S. president.

“There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said.

“They have to — and they’ve made a commitment to me they’re going to see to it that there’s an ability to evacuate significant portions of Rafah before they go and take out the remainder of Hamas,” he said.

“But it’s a process. And, look, Israel has had the overwhelming support of the vast majority of nations. If it keeps this up … they’re going to lose support from around the world. And that is not in Israel’s interest.”

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Michael Perry

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Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA’s work was recognized with Deutsche Welle’s “Freedom of Speech Award.” Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure” award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.