Biden holds out hope for Ramadan cease-fire in Gaza

President Biden expressed optimism on Saturday that a Gaza cease-fire deal in time for the start of Ramadan this week was still “possible.”

“My CIA director [is] in that region right at this minute still talking about it,” Biden said in an interview on MSNBC, referring to William J. Burns. “I think it’s always possible. I never give up on that.” However, Biden also said a day earlier that a cease-fire by Ramadan was “looking tough.”

In recent days, hopes for a pause in fighting in time for the first fast of the Muslim holy month on Monday appeared to fade amid stalled negotiations.

A Gaza cease-fire by Ramadan? What to know about the holy month.

The proposed deal would pause fighting for six weeks to free some captives held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons, as well as increased humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza. But Hamas has been pressing for a more durable end to the fighting, which Israel opposes.

The United States sees the potential deal as a first phase to secure the release of hostages and give civilians in Gaza relief during Ramadan, The Washington Post reported. Burns toured the Middle East over the past several days trying to push talks over the finish line.

Civilian suffering in Gaza has worsened, with hunger and a lack of aid beginning to claim lives, local health officials say. The number of deaths from malnutrition and dehydration rose to 25, the Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday. A 2-month-old baby and a 20-year-old woman were the latest casualties.

16 children have died of malnutrition in aid-starved Gaza, health officials say

Aid groups say the crisis is man-made, thanks to insufficient entry points for supplies, Israel’s arduous inspections and attacks by Israel on U.N. aid convoys and the police securing them. On Saturday, U.S. Central Command said an Army vessel was dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean with equipment to establish a floating pier off Gaza’s coastline for humanitarian assistance. Biden announced the initiative to deliver daily meals to Palestinians during his State of the Union address Thursday.

Jordan carried out 10 aid airdrops in northern Gaza on Saturday, in an operation with Egypt, the United States, France and Belgium, the prime minister of Jordan said on X. U.S. C-130s dropped 41,400 meals and 23,000 bottles of water in the area, Centcom said, where the need for aid is the greatest.

Here’s what else to know

The United States and its allies shot down at least 28 Houthi drones in the Red Sea, Centcom said Saturday. “No U.S. or Coalition Navy vessels were damaged in the attack and there were also no reports by commercial ships of damage,” the statement said.

At least 30,960 people have been killed and 72,524 injured in Gaza 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 248 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

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