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What is Biden’s cease-fire plan for Israel and Hamas? Here’s what we know.

What is Biden’s cease-fire plan for Israel and Hamas? Here’s what we know.
What is Biden’s cease-fire plan for Israel and Hamas? Here’s what we know.

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A plan announced by President Biden for a “durable end to the war” recently renewed hope for a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas that has proved elusive for months. Biden described it as a comprehensive Israeli proposal, following intensive diplomacy and his conversations with leaders from Qatar, Egypt, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council approved a U.S.-sponsored resolution to support the plan, a rare diplomatic victory for the Biden administration, which has faced criticism at the United Nations for its role supporting Israel, even from its closest friends.

Israel’s military operations in Gaza, now in their ninth month, have displaced 75 percent of its population and left parts of the enclave battling with famine amid catastrophic humanitarian conditions, the United Nations says. More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and about 252 taken hostage. During a pause in fighting in November, 105 hostages, including foreign nationals, were released as part of a deal.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his government, have publicly objected to certain elements of the plan, despite “authorizing” negotiators to move forward with the proposal.

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Here’s what to know about the latest three-phase cease-fire proposal as described on May 31 by Biden and his administration:

The first phase — lasting six weeks — would bring a full and complete cease-fire and include Israeli withdrawal from all populated areas in Gaza. Female, elderly and wounded hostages in Gaza would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, Biden said. The remaining American hostages in Gaza would be released in this phase, Biden added, and some remains of the killed hostages would be returned.

Displaced Palestinian civilians would be allowed to return to their homes in all areas of Gaza. There would be a surge in humanitarian aid, with 600 trucks entering the enclave daily, according to the plan. The cease-fire would ensure that the aid is “safely and effectively distributed” to those in need, Biden said.

Negotiations will continue during this phase to bring a “permanent end to hostilities” in phase two, he added.

In his statement, Biden acknowledged that there are details that needed to be worked out to move to the second phase. But the cease-fire will continue if negotiations extended beyond the six weeks, he said.

The second phase would see the release of all remaining hostages in Gaza, including male soldiers, Biden said, and Israeli forces would withdraw all forces from Gaza.

If adhered to, the temporary cease-fire would become a “cessation of hostilities permanently,” he added.

Any final remains of killed hostages would be returned in the third phase, which would include a massive internationally-backed reconstruction plan for Gaza, Biden said. Israeli airstrikes and ground invasion have laid to waste large swaths of the enclave and flattened entire city blocks, The Washington Post has reported.

A senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, described this phase as an extensive three-to-five year program of rehabilitation and stabilization of Gaza.

“It’s time to begin this new stage, for the hostages to come home, for Israel to be secure, for the suffering to stop,” Biden said. “It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin.”

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