Biden says there’s ‘got to be a ceasefire’ in Gaza and warns of fighting during Ramadan
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with his Competition Council in the State Dining Room of the White House, March 5, 2024. (Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

By Ron Kampeas
March 5, 2024

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war before Ramadan, the upcoming Muslim holy month when the fighting could become “very, very dangerous” if a truce is not reached.

Biden’s call comes days after his vice president, Kamala Harris, also called for a ceasefire in a speech that was more sharply critical of Israel for not doing enough to let humanitarian aid into Gaza. Both Biden and Harris placed the onus on Hamas to agree to a temporary ceasefire proposal that Israel has put forward.

“It’s in the hands of Hamas right now. Israelis have been cooperating. There’s been a rational offer,” Biden said.

“There’s got to be a ceasefire,” the president added, according to a pool report distributed by the White House. “If we get to circumstance that it continues to Ramadan… it’s going to be very dangerous. So, we are trying very, very hard to get ceasefire.”

Biden administration officials are wary of the onset of the Muslim holy month, which starts next week, and which in the past has been a time of exacerbated Israeli-Palestinian tensions, in part because Muslim entry into Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, revered by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, to mark the holiday spikes, increasing the chance for tense encounters.

“This is something we’re always mindful of particularly given what’s going on between Israel and Hamas,” John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, said later when asked to elaborate on Biden’s reference to Ramadan.

Kirby, speaking at the daily White House briefing, also outlined the temporary ceasefire deal under consideration.

“What we’re looking for and what we want is a temporary ceasefire for about six weeks that’ll allow us to get more aid in and more importantly, get all those hostages back in their families where they belong, and reduce the violence,” he said. “That’s the deal on the table. And as the President also said today, it’s a rational deal.”

Obstructing the deal, according to the United States and Israel, is Hamas’ refusal to list the living hostages still being held and report on their health. More than 130 hostages remain in the enclave out of more than 250 who were abducted on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and killed more than 1,200 people, launching the war. About 100 are thought to be alive. Families of the hostages will appear on Thursday night in Congress when Biden delivers his State of the Union address.

Administration officials met this week with Benny Gantz, the centrist leader who is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet. Harris, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were adamant when speaking with Gantz about the need for Israel to facilitate the entry of assistance into the strip, Axios reported.

Blinken’s spokesman, Matthew Miller, on Monday said the entry of assistance would be the first thing Blinken would raise in his meeting.

“It will be at the top of the agenda when Secretary Blinken meets with Minister Gantz tomorrow,” Miller said. “More must be done to get aid into Gaza, to ensure that the delivery of aid is sustained into Gaza, and to ensure that once aid gets into Gaza it can be disturbed to those who need it.”

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