Biden says he hopes for Israel-Hamas cease-fire by Monday

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Washington — President Biden said Monday that a deal between Israel and Hamas for a cease-fire in Gaza is close.

"My national security adviser tells me that we're close, we're close, it's not done yet. And my hope is that by next Monday we'll have a cease-fire," Mr. Biden told reporters during a stop in New York City.

Mr. Biden said earlier this month that the U.S. was working to negotiate a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas that would pause fighting in Gaza for at least six weeks. He said the deal would "bring an immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build something more enduring."

In an appearance that aired early Tuesday on NBC's "Late Night With Seth Meyers," the president said Israel would be willing to pause its assault during Ramadan if a deal is reached. The Muslim holy month begins around March 10.

"Ramadan's coming up and there has been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out," Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden, who has supported Israel's right to respond to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas, has increasingly sharpened his criticism of Israel, calling its military operations in Gaza "over the top."

In early February, as Israel prepared for a ground operation in Rafah, a city near Egypt's border where more than one million displaced Palestinians are estimated to have taken refuge after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza, Mr. Biden warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to proceed without a "credible" plan for ensuring the safety of the people sheltering there.

Netanyahu told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that a hostage deal would delay the Rafah operation, but said Israel would still move ahead with the operation at a later time.

"We can't leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it, obviously, we have to do it," Netanyahu said. "But understand, too, that I've asked the army to submit to me a double plan, first to evacuate to enable the evacuation of the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and, obviously, second, to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions."

"That gets us a real distance towards the completion of our victory, and that we're not going to give it up," he continued. "If we have a deal, it'll be delayed somewhat. But it'll happen. If we don't have a deal, we'll do it anyway. It has to be done. Because total victory is our goal, and total victory is within reach. Not months away, weeks away once we begin the operation."

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