Biden No Longer Hopeful of Temporary Ceasefire on Monday, Gaza Fatalities Cross 30,000

What’s Happening

US President Joe Biden had announced his hopes earlier this week that a temporary ceasefire would be reached in Gaza by this coming Monday, March 4th. This comes after several weeks of negotiations in Paris between Israel, Qatar, the US, France, and Egypt aimed at bringing about a temporary ceasefire.

Biden stated in an interview that his “national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet” when speaking on the proximity of a ceasefire.

The current Israeli proposal of the ceasefire is to last for 40 days, and witness large amounts of hostage/prisoner release and aid delivery. Israel will release Palestinian prisoners held within it’s jails in exchange for hostages at a rate of 10 to one, with Hamas releasing 40 hostages, and Israel releasing 400 prisoners. Additionally, approximately 500 aid trucks would be entering Gaza each day.

The hostages Hamas would release would be women, people under 19, people over 50, and anyone who has fallen ill. Israel would not be permitted to re-arrest the Palestinian prisoners released under the deal.

Biden’s hopes have been stashed, however, after a deadly attack upon groups of Palestinians waiting for aid this morning, February 29th, in Northern Gaza. According to Palestinian sources, over 100 people were killed and several hundred injured after Israeli forces opened fire upon Palestinian civilians who were waiting to receive aid from a truck. Others claim the deaths in the dozens. Some of these sources claim the casualties all came from Israeli fire, while others say it was a combination of the live fire, and military vehicles/aid trucks running people over as the crowds grew larger and surrounded the convoy.

Israeli government sources said Israeli forces responded with “live fire” after the aid truck was surrounded, whereas the IDF stated they were reviewing the incident. They claimed initially only 10 casualties happened from the incident and that all were caused by people stampeding each other to get aid, and eventually being run over by trucks leaving. However, the IDF later expanded casualties to “the dozens”.

Biden has stated the incident is likely to significantly harm ceasfire negotiations, prompting him to take back his former comments stating he was hopeful of a ceasefire being reached by Monday. He added that there were “two competing versions of what happened”, and that the US was “checking” into what had happened.

The attack on the aid trucks, mixed with other recent fatalities, have caused deaths within Gaza to cross above 30,000, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and the UN.

Fundamental Differences

When Biden stated he was hopeful of the ceasefire coming to be soon, it already seemed Hamas was distinctly less hopeful. While they have not officially rejected the ceasefire proposal, Hamas has raised a number of issues. Basem Naim, the head of Hamas political and international relations, has stated that “the gap is still wide. We have to discuss a lot of points with the mediators” when speaking on if a ceasefire could come about soon. Directly addressing Biden’s reported optimism, Naim stated that it was not “related to the reality on the ground”.

“If the Americans want to be really optimistic, they have to end their game of double standards. They talk on one hand for stopping the aggression or for achieving a ceasefire and avoiding broadening the conflict into the region. But at the same time they are using the veto in the UN Security Council. They are approving $14bn for Israel, they are securing Israel with more ammunitions” -Basem Naim

At the core of Hamas’ hesitancy is a number of key issues which Hamas has announced they will not budge on. Issues which Israel sees as untenable. Hamas has stated they are willing to be flexible on certain portions of the deal, but there are a few aspects they will not compromise on.

Namely, Hamas is seeking a final and complete ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and the freedom of movement for Palestinians within Gaza.

These demands, absolutes for Hamas, are of course in stark contrast with Israel’s goals. Since the beginning of the war, and again in recent ceasefire negotiations, Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have stated their intention is to completely destroy Hamas, as well as make sure that Gaza can never again “pose a threat” to Israel.

Netanyahu has consistently argued against a permanent ceasefire before his established war goals are completed, claiming it will simply provide Hamas an opportunity to rearm and continue attacks against Israel.

Hamas added that their “flexibility” was surrounding hostage/prisoner releases, and reconstruction efforts.

Urgent Matters

Pressure for a ceasefire of any kind is growing rapidly on both sides, particularly as humanitarian aid within Gaza begins to collapse. Aid reaching Gaza is February was half of that in January, and the UN has halted aid to northern Gaza altogether citing the “complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order”, as well as Israeli military action.

As the UN stated, the slowing of aid is in direct contrast to the International Court of Justice’s orders to Israel to expand humanitarian aid to Gaza, and facilitate it’s delivery.

Antonio Guterres, the UN’s Secretary General, has stated that an Israeli assault upon Rafah, a primary refuge for Palestinians displaced in the current fighting and the primary entry point for aid into Gaza, would be “the nail in the coffin” for aid deliveries to Gaza.

Reports of deaths from starvation/malnutrition are growing steadily more common, as fears of a famine continue to rise.

Israel has been insistent on an assault upon Rafah being an eventual necessity. Previously, Rafah had been established by Israel as a safe zone within Gaza, As such, it is host to over 1 million people. It is unclear where the people within Rafah are to evacuate to if Israel carries out a large attack upon Rafah.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.


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