Biden says Gaza ceasefire unlikely by Monday, shootings to complicate talks

The US is checking 'competing versions of the shooting incident at an aid point in Gaza, which killed 104 people, says the president


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A picture taken from a position in southern Israel shows destroyed buildings in the Gaza Strip. — AFP
A picture taken from a position in southern Israel shows destroyed buildings in the Gaza Strip. — AFP

Published: Thu 29 Feb 2024, 11:00 PM

US President Joe Biden said a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza was now unlikely to happen by Monday, adding that a shooting incident at an aid point would likely complicate negotiations.

Biden said on Thursday that the United States was checking "competing versions" of the incident in which the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory said Israeli troops shot dead 104 people.

Earlier this week Biden had predicted a deal was possible by Monday to implement a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in exchange for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

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"Hope springs eternal," Biden told reporters when asked about the ceasefire timing, as he left the White House for a pre-election trip to Texas to visit the US-Mexico border.

"I was on the telephone with people in the region... Probably not by Monday, but I'm hopeful."

The US president said he did not yet have clarity on what happened in Gaza City earlier on Thursday, when one of the worst single incidents of the nearly five-month war occurred.

"We're checking that right now. There are two competing versions of what happened, I don't have an answer yet," Biden told reporters as he headed to his helicopter.

Asked if he was worried whether it would complicate the delicate negotiations for a ceasefire, Biden replied: "I know it will."

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Israeli forces there opened fire on a crowd of Palestinians at an aid distribution point Thursday, killing at least 104 people and wounding over 700.

Israeli sources confirmed that troops shot at a crowd rushing towards aid trucks, believing they "posed a threat" to Israeli troops. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office however said many were crushed by the trucks themselves.

The United States has backed Israel since the unprecedented Hamas attack on the country on October 7, but has recently pushed for a ceasefire and a reduction in civilian casualties.

The Palestinian death toll from the war has now topped 30,000, the Gaza health ministry said earlier on Thursday.


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