War in the Middle East: USA increases pressure on Hamas and Israel

War in the Middle East: USA increases pressure on Hamas and Israel

Efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza are stalling. Now US President Biden is making a new offer from Israel public – and is thus exerting pressure on both warring parties. The news at a glance.

With the surprise announcement of a ceasefire proposal in the Gaza war that Israel had accepted, US President Joe Biden has called on his ally to take responsibility and at the same time significantly increased the pressure on the Islamist Hamas. “It is time to end this war,” Biden said at the White House in Washington.

“Israel has made its proposal. Hamas says it wants a ceasefire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it,” Biden said. “Hamas must accept the offer.”

In an initial reaction, the Islamists said they viewed Biden’s intentions positively, especially the goal of a permanent ceasefire. “If Hamas rejects the proposal, the Biden administration will use this to argue that it has done everything it could to achieve a ceasefire and that Hamas is responsible for the continuation of the violence,” Jonathan Panikoff of the US think tank Atlantic Council commented on Biden’s speech to the US newspaper “Wall Street Journal”.

Israel’s Prime Minister reaffirms war aims

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, according to his office, that the proposed plan would enable his country to adhere to the principle that the war will not end until all objectives have been achieved. This includes the destruction of Hamas. The US and Biden’s speech were not mentioned in the brief statement.

“I know there are some in Israel who disagree with this plan and will call for a continuation of the war indefinitely,” Biden said earlier. “I have called on the Israeli leadership to stand behind this deal.” Israel no longer needs to fear for its security.

After several months of war, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another massacre like the one on October 7. An unlimited war aimed at an unspecified “total victory” over Hamas – a phrase often repeated by Netanyahu – will only trap Israel in Gaza and increase the country’s international isolation, Biden said. Nor will it bring the hostages home or Israel into permanent security.

Baerbock speaks of a glimmer of hope

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on Platform X: “The Israeli offer, which US President Biden explained and reaffirmed today, is a glimmer of hope and can point the way out of the deadlock of war.” Hamas must now prove that it wants to end the conflict.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres made similar comments. “The Secretary-General very much hopes that this will lead to agreement among those involved for a lasting peace,” said his spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

The plan, surprisingly presented by Biden, contains three phases: The first envisages a complete and unrestricted ceasefire of six weeks and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from all densely populated areas in Gaza. A specific group of hostages would be released first – including women, the elderly and the injured.

In return, hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel would be released. In a second phase, the fighting would then be permanently stopped and the remaining hostages released. In a final phase, reconstruction of the Gaza Strip would begin.

US government puts pressure on both parties to the conflict

Israel agreed to the new draft, which was sent to Hamas last Thursday, with mediation from the US, Qatar and Egypt, said a senior US government official. They thought it was important to make the details public, as otherwise the proposals would be presented differently by opponents of a deal.

It was painstakingly drawn up, “and it is almost identical to what Hamas itself proposed a few weeks ago,” the government representative explained. For weeks, the USA, Egypt and Qatar have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in order to achieve the release of the remaining hostages and a ceasefire in the conflict.

So far, the talks have not been successful. Hamas initially said that the condition for the hostage release was an end to the war. Israel has so far rejected this. Biden’s strategy is to get Israel and Hamas to agree on a ceasefire agreement that could break the momentum on the battlefield and end the war, Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation, told the Wall Street Journal.

“Whether the Israelis will believe that is another question.” Netanyahu probably means that he can continue the war after the first phase – or expects that Hamas will reject the agreement from the outset, said Miller.

Shortly after Biden’s speech on X, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron wrote: “Let us seize this moment and bring the conflict to an end.” He called on Hamas to accept the new proposal. An end to the fighting could lead to a lasting peace if everyone is prepared to take the right steps, said Cameron.

Netanyahu invited to speak to US Parliament

The leaders of both parties in the US Congress invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to give a speech to the American parliament, despite strong criticism of his military actions in Gaza. The Republican Chairman of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, published a letter to Netanyahu yesterday. The letter is also signed by the Republican minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and the top Democrats in both parliamentary chambers, Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer. A date was not given.

The Gaza war was triggered by an unprecedented massacre carried out by terrorists from Hamas and other extremist groups in southern Israel on October 7. On the Israeli side, more than 1,200 people were killed. During the attack, more than 250 people were forcibly abducted into the Gaza Strip. Dozens of them were later released, others were killed. According to official information from Israel, more than 120 hostages are still being held by Hamas – it is unclear how many of them are still alive.

In response to the massacre, Israel’s military began massive air strikes and a ground offensive in the densely populated and sealed-off coastal area. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority in the Gaza Strip, more than 36,000 people have been killed and more than 82,000 injured since then. These figures, which are difficult to verify independently, make no distinction between civilians and fighters.

Source: Stern

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