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Biden hopes Gaza cease-fire starts as soon as next Monday

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden expressed hope negotiators would secure a temporary pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, describing the talks as “close” and saying that a cease-fire could start as soon as next Monday.

“My national security adviser tells me that they’re close, they’re close, they’re not done yet,” Biden told reporters on Monday in New York, when asked when he thought a cease-fire would start.

“My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a cease-fire,” he added.

Discussions on a pause in the fighting in exchange for the release of more hostages taken by Hamas in its deadly Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel have intensified in recent days. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that representatives from Israel, the U.S., Egypt and Qatar meeting in Paris had an agreement on the “broad contours” of a hostage deal for a temporary cease-fire.

Israel has been waging a military campaign to root out Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the group’s attack, which killed 1,200 people and saw around 250 people taken hostage. Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist group by the U.S., Canada and European Union, controls Gaza.

Yet with the war nearing the start of its sixth month, the rising death toll in Gaza, where the Hamas-run Health Ministry says nearly 30,000 people have died, has increased demands for a cease-fire.

The U.S. has pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on the next stage of the campaign aimed at the city of Rafah in Gaza’s south, until he can detail plans to help protect civilians. While Biden has backed Israel’s right to defend itself he has also urged its government to do more to avoid civilian deaths.

Biden’s remarks come a day before the Democratic primary in Michigan, a key battleground state for his 2024 re-election hopes. While he does not face a serious challenger for the nomination, critics of his Israel policy are encouraging voters to select an “uncommitted” option on the ballot to punish him for his stance.

The president has faced backlash from Muslim and Arab Americans as well as some younger voters and progressives over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. His events in recent weeks have seen regular protests by pro-Palestinian activists. Michigan is home to a sizable Arab and Muslim American population.

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