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'We can't lose this moment,' Biden says in announcing 3-part plan to end Gaza war

By Ehren Wynder
President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the conviction of former President DonaldTrump before announcing a proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the State Dining Room of the White House on Friday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI
1 of 4 | President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the conviction of former President DonaldTrump before announcing a proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the State Dining Room of the White House on Friday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

May 31 (UPI) -- Israel has proposed a three-part plan to end the war in Gaza and release all hostages, President Joe Biden said on Friday.

Biden said the proposal comes after "intensive diplomacy" carried out by his administration. The plan has been delivered to Hamas via Qatar, but the U.S.-designated terrorist group has not yet responded to the plan.

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"This is truly a decisive moment. Israel has made their proposal. Hamas says it wants a cease-fire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it. Hamas needs to take the deal," Biden said.

The first phase involves a six-week total cease-fire, during which Israeli forces would withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza, and women, children and elderly hostages will be released.

The initial phase also includes parameters for displaced Palestinians to return to their homes.

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Biden said there "a number of details" for Israel and Hamas to negotiate before moving to phase two, which involves the release of all living hostages, including male soldiers, in exchange for Palestinians held in Israel.

The cease-fire will continue if phase one negotiations take longer than six weeks, Biden said.

"As long as Hamas lives up to its commitment, a temporary cease-fire would become, in the words of the Israeli proposal, a cessation of hostilities permanently," he said.

The final phase includes the return of the remains of dead hostages and a major reconstruction plan for Gaza, which involves the United States and Arab nations working with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to ensure Hamas is not able to rearm itself.

In urging Israeli leaders to honor the plan, Biden said Hamas has been "devastated" by Israel's response to the Oct. 7 attack and that it cannot carry out a similar attack.

"The people of Israel should know, they can make this offer without any further risk to their own security because they've devastated Hamas ... for the past eight months. At this point, Hamas no longer is capable of carrying out another Oct. 7, which is one of Israel's main objective of this war and, quite frankly, a righteous one," he said.

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A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he authorized the government to "present an outline" that included "the return of all our abductees and the elimination of Hamas' military and governmental capabilities."

Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas since Oct. 7 but has faced pressure from the families of hostages and centrist members of his coalition who argue he is not doing enough to ensure their release.

Far-right members of Netanyahu's cabinet, meanwhile, favor the continuation of the war and a total occupation of Gaza.

Biden's announcement comes days after Israeli forces continued to hammer the city of Rafah, where many Palestinians fled to escape the fighting.

Israel continued its siege of Rafah despite Biden urging Netanyahu against it and halting a large shipment of weapons to Israel earlier this month.

Despite his vocal frustrations with Netanyahu, Biden on Friday reiterated his "lifelong" commitment to Israel.

"I ask you to take a step back, think what will happen if this moment is lost. We can't lose this moment," he said. "Indefinite war in pursuit of an identified notion of total victory will ... only bog down Israel and Gaza."

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