Middle East: Gaza ceasefire 'probably not until Monday'

US President Joe Biden does not expect an agreement on a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza war by Monday.

Middle East: Gaza ceasefire 'probably not until Monday'

US President Joe Biden does not expect an agreement on a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza war by Monday. "Probably not until Monday, but I'm confident," Biden said in Washington when asked by a reporter about such a deal.

Shortly before his departure to the US southern border, Biden remained optimistic. The 81-year-old had raised hopes at the beginning of the week and said: "I hope that we will have a ceasefire by next Monday."

Incident that left dozens dead shows urgency for a ceasefire

Biden also briefly commented on reports of an incident involving an aid convoy in the Gaza Strip that left dozens dead. When asked about the impact of the incident on a possible ceasefire, he made it clear that it would make negotiations more difficult. However, he was not aware of any specific details about the incident.

According to the White House, Biden spoke by telephone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. In the phone calls, everyone involved regretted the loss of life among the civilian population, the White House said. It is a “tragic and alarming incident”.

It was agreed that this incident underscored the urgency of concluding negotiations as soon as possible and expanding humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip. It was also said that Biden had discussed with the Egyptian President and the Emir of Qatar "how such an extended period of calm could be developed into something lasting" with a view to a ceasefire.

The Hamas-controlled health authority in the Gaza Strip said more than a hundred people were killed and several hundred injured in Thursday's incident. The Israeli army had said that numerous residents had crowded around arriving trucks with relief supplies in order to loot them. Dozens were killed and injured as a result of jostling and crowding. According to the information, people were also run over by trucks. The information could not initially be independently verified.

Several Israeli media outlets had reported, citing army sources, that for an undisclosed reason some of the crowd had approached the Israeli soldiers who were coordinating the import of the trucks, thereby endangering them. As a result, soldiers opened fire on the group.

The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins around March 10th. It is uncertain whether international mediators will be able to negotiate an agreement on a new hostage exchange by then. Cautiously optimistic signals have recently come from the USA and Qatar, which together with Egypt facilitate indirect negotiations between Israel and the Islamist Hamas.

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