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Gaza truce plan ‘opportunity not to be missed’

Taoiseach Simon Harris has called on Hamas and Israel to give “serious and positive consideration” to a ceasefire plan presented by US President Joe Biden yesterday, adding that it is an “opportunity that should not be missed”.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Harris reiterated Ireland’s call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as well as the release of all hostages and unimpeded access for aid into the besieged enclave.

Mr Biden yesterday said that Israel had offered a new roadmap towards a permanent peace in Gaza, and urged Hamas to accept the deal.

In what was his first major address outlining a solution to the eight-month conflict, the US president said the proposal started with a six-week phase that would see Israeli forces withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza.

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It would also see “the release of a number of hostages, including women, the elderly, the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners”.

Israel and the Palestinians would then negotiate during those six weeks for a lasting ceasefire but the truce would continue if the talks remained under way.

Mr Harris this afternoon said that there was now a plan on the table that “can move us closer to securing” a ceasefire and aid, as well as the release of hostages, and can help “create space to build a just and lasting peace and two-state solution”.

“I call on all parties to give the plan presented by President Biden serious and positive consideration.

“This is an opportunity that should not be missed. It is long past time for the suffering to end,” he said.

Earlier, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin had called for all parties involved to intensify talks to end the war.

“Too many have suffered. It’s time to stop,” he wrote on social media.

Palestinians flee with their belongings in Tel al-Sultan, Rafah, southern Gaza

“Now is the time for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all hostages, and unhindered humanitarian aid to desperate Palestinian civilians,” Mr Martin added.

This morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there would be no permanent ceasefire in Gaza until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities were destroyed.

“Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: The destruction of Hamas military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter,” he added.

Mr Netanyahu’s declaration came as Israeli forces hammered Rafah in southern Gaza with tanks and artillery, hours after Mr Biden outlined the plan.

Read more:
No permanent Gaza ceasefire until Hamas destroyed, says Netanyahu
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