Biden says ‘hoping’ for Gaza ceasefire deal by Ramadan

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Palestinian men play volleyball inside their neighbourhood in Deir El-Balah, in the central Gaza on March 1 amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. – AFP photo

WASHINGTON (March 2): US President Joe Biden said Friday he was “hoping” for a ceasefire deal in the Israel-Hamas conflict by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but agreement was still not sealed.

“I’m hoping so, we’re still working real hard on it. We’re not there yet,” he told reporters at the White House when asked if he expected a deal by Ramadan, which will start on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

“We’ll get there but we’re not there yet — we may not get there,” Biden added, without elaborating, as he headed to his helicopter to spend the weekend at the presidential Camp David retreat.

Biden had said at the beginning of this week that he expected a deal by Monday for a six-week halt in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, but has steadily walked back the timeline.

The 81-year-old Democrat announced earlier Friday that the United States would soon start airdropping aid to Gaza, a day after dozens of desperate Palestinians were killed rushing an aid convoy.

Biden has said the incident could complicate talks, but would not comment Friday on what was holding up a deal, adding: “I’m not going to tell you that because that’ll get involved in the negotiations.” – AFP