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Biden says Israel-Hamas ceasefire close

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Biden says Israel-Hamas ceasefire close

The US President says a pause in the fighting could come by the start of Ramadan next month

US President Joe Biden said Israel would be willing to halt its war on Hamas in Gaza during the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan if a deal is reached to release some of the hostages held by the militants.

Negotiators from the US, Egypt and Qatar are working on a framework deal under which Hamas would free some of the dozens of hostages it holds, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and a six-week halt in fighting.

During the temporary pause, negotiations would continue over the release of the remaining hostages.

If a deal is reached in the coming days, this timeline would include Ramadan, which starts around March 10.

Mr Biden’s comments in an interview recorded on Monday for NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers show were the most detailed yet about a possible halt in fighting during the holy month — a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting.

“Ramadan’s coming up and there has 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,” Mr Biden said.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to Mr Biden’s comments, which were released on Tuesday.

The start of Ramadan is seen as an unofficial deadline for a ceasefire deal. The month is a time of heightened religious observance and dawn-to-dusk fasting for hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.

Mr Biden said on Monday that he hopes a ceasefire deal could take effect by next week and that he believes Israel has slowed its bombardment of Rafah.

“They have to and they have made a commitment to me that 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 Hamas … but it’s a process,” he said.

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