Biden speaks with Netanyahu on latest Hamas ceasefire proposal

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President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via phone on Thursday following Hamas’ response to a hostage and cease-fire deal, Fox News Digital can confirm.

The leaders discussed a response by Hamas to a ceasefire deal and the release of the remaining 116 hostages who were captured by the terrorist group during the Oct. 7 attacks, which left nearly 1,200 people dead.

Netanyahu was set to convene his security cabinet to formulate a reaction to Hamas’ latest position, which could prove to be a pivotal step in ending the nine-month-long Israeli air and ground war that has devastated Gaza. The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll in the war had climbed past 38,000, with at least 87,445 wounded.

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Neither the White House nor Netanyahu provided many details about the conversation, although Netanyahu is said to have congratulated Biden and the American people on the occasion of the U.S.’s commemoration of Independence Day.

Netanyahu said that without the U.S. there would be no freedom in the world and President Biden said that without Israel there would be no security for Jews in the world, per an Israeli spokesperson.

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“Prime Minister Netanyahu updated President Biden on his decision to send a delegation to continue the hostage negotiations and reiterated the principles that Israel is committed to, especially its commitment to end the war only after all of its goals have been achieved,” the spokesperson said. 

The U.S. has rallied world support behind a plan that would see the hostages still held by the militant group released in return for a lasting truce and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. However, until now, neither side appears to have fully embraced it. 

The current deal is reported to be based on a resolution outlined by President Biden in May and endorsed by the UN Security Council, which would begin with an initial six-week cease-fire and the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza and the return of Palestinian civilians to all areas in the territory.

Phase two would see “a permanent end to hostilities, in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.” 

Phase three would launch “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families.”

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Hamas suggested “amendments” to the proposal last month, some of which the U.S. said were unworkable, without providing specifics. The group sent another response Wednesday to Egypt and Qatar, which are mediating the talks, without providing details. A U.S. official said the Biden administration was examining the response, calling it constructive but saying more work needed to be done. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press.

Hamas political official Bassem Naim said that the group has neither accepted nor rejected the American proposal and has “responded with some ideas to bridge the gap” between the two sides, without elaborating.

However, the transition from the first to the second phase has appeared to be the main sticking point.

Hamas is concerned that Israel will restart the war after the first phase, perhaps after making unrealistic demands in the talks. Israeli officials have expressed concern that Hamas will do the same, drawing out the talks and the initial cease-fire indefinitely without releasing the remaining captives.

Israeli Channel 12, citing a senior Israeli official, reports that Hamas has withdrawn its demand for guarantees that Israel would end the war and withdraw entirely from Gaza in order for it to even agree to the first stage of the deal.

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Additionally, the Hezbollah-linked newspaper Al-Akhbar reports that the Hamas plan involves Israel withdrawing troops from the Rafah Crossing area in agreement with Egypt but without having to fully withdraw from the key Philadelphi Corridor.

Netanyahu has been skeptical of the deal, saying that Israel is still committed to destroying Hamas. 

“The war will end once Israel achieves all of its objectives, including the destruction of Hamas and the release of all of our hostages,” Netanyahu said in a video statement given in Hebrew earlier this week. Netanyahu was slamming a New York Times report quoting senior Israeli officials who claim some military brass want a cease-fire with Hamas. 

Over the past nine months, 109 hostages have been released, seven have been rescued by the Israel Defense Forces, and the bodies of 19 have been recovered by the military from Gaza, including three who were mistakenly killed by troops, The Times of Israel reports.

Fox News’ Yonat Friling and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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