Middle East conflict live updates: Biden says Israel would halt fighting during Ramadan if hostage deal is reached

President Biden said that if a hostage-release deal can be reached, Israel has agreed to halt fighting in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins March 10. Israeli officials have not publicly confirmed such an agreement. Biden’s comments on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” came after he said he hopes to see a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas by Monday.

Here’s what to know

  • Israeli officials say they are closing in on Hamas leader Yehiya Sinwar, but that an effort to capture or kill him could endanger hostages who are believed to be with him.
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of his prime minister and cabinet on Monday, according to the president’s office, opening the door for a new technocratic administration that the United States and Arab allies hope could take a role in governing a postwar Gaza.
  • The Israel Defense Forces presented the war cabinet with a plan for evacuating people from “areas of fighting” in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli prime minister’s office said Monday. The statement did not specifically mention Rafah, the last refuge for civilians in Gaza, where Israel has promised a ground operation despite warnings from allies.
  • An all-out Israeli offensive on Rafah “would put the final nail in the coffin of our aid programs,” U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Monday in remarks to the Human Rights Council.
  • At least 29,782 people have been killed in Gaza and 70,043 injured since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says 240 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

2:13 AM: Hamas leader hiding in Gaza, but killing him risks hostages, officials say

middle east conflict live updates: biden says israel would halt fighting during ramadan if hostage deal is reached

Middle East conflict live updates: Biden says Israel would halt fighting during Ramadan if hostage deal is reached

The Israeli military is confident that Hamas leader Yehiya Sinwar, the alleged architect of the Oct. 7 attacks, is hiding inside a labyrinthine network of tunnels beneath southern Gaza. But he is surrounded by a human shield of hostages intended to deter an operation to capture or kill him, frustrating Israel’s efforts to dismantle the terrorist organization and bring the more than four-month-long war to a close.

The Israeli operation in Gaza cannot conclude until Sinwar is either captured, killed or no longer in a position to run the organization, current and former Israeli officials said in interviews. Underscoring the necessity of eliminating the terrorist leader, and the degree to which the war hinges on that mission’s success, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of his Likud party faction earlier this month, “We will kill the Hamas leadership. … We must not end the war before then.”

But pinpointing Sinwar’s location may not be as difficult, tactically or politically, as mounting a military operation to neutralize him without also killing or injuring many of the hostages believed to be nearby, according to Israeli, U.S. and other Western intelligence and security officials who described the challenging hunt for Israel’s most-wanted man. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and operations.

“It’s not about locating him, it’s about doing something” without risking the lives of the hostages, said one senior Israeli official.

Read the full story

By: Shane Harris

2:12 AM: Biden says temporary cease-fire in Gaza could come next week

middle east conflict live updates: biden says israel would halt fighting during ramadan if hostage deal is reached

President Joe Biden walks from the Oval Office to Marine One at the White House in Washington, on Monday. (Photo by Tom Brenner for The Washington Post)

President Biden on Monday said he hoped a deal between Israel and Hamas could emerge as soon as next week, providing for the release of many of the remaining hostages in Gaza in exchange for a temporary pause in the fighting in the Palestinian enclave.

Asked on Monday when a Gaza cease-fire could start, Biden said: “I hope by the end of the weekend. … My national security adviser tells me that we’re close — we’re close — we’re not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a cease-fire.”

Biden and his top aides have for weeks been almost singularly focused on securing a weeks-long cease-fire in the fighting in Gaza in exchange for the release of many of the more than 100 remaining hostages. The negotiations have proved difficult as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to appease far-right members of his government, who have opposed the deal, and Hamas has made demands that Israel finds unacceptable, including on the issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages.

Read the full story

By: Yasmeen Abutaleb

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