Biden and Netanyahu Meet on Possible Cease-Fire and Hostage Deal

President Biden plans to speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday to discuss the prospects of a possible cease-fire deal to obtain the release of some of the remaining hostages held since the Hamas-led terrorist attack of Oct. 7, according to two officials with direct knowledge of the plan.

Mr. Biden’s call with the prime minister is set to come just hours after Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken left Washington for his latest trip to the Middle East. Mr. Blinken will start in Saudi Arabia, where he will see Egyptian and Qatari officials who have served as intermediaries with Hamas in the cease-fire and hostage talks, which have stalled in recent weeks.

Mr. Blinken is expected to visit Israel while in the region this week, though the State Department has not announced an itinerary beyond his Saudi stop, where he will join a three-day meeting of the World Economic Forum. The secretary has been a critical player in the Biden administration’s efforts to broker a cessation to the war, increase humanitarian aid and win the release of more than 100 hostages believed to still be in Gaza.

The call also comes three weeks after Mr. Biden told Mr. Netanyahu that he would rethink his support for Israel’s war unless the country did more to facilitate the delivery of food and other supplies to Gaza and limit civilian casualties. Since then, humanitarian aid to Gaza has increased substantially, and Biden advisers credit Israel with responding to the president’s demands, though U.S. officials acknowledge that the aid is still not as much as is needed.

Israel has withdrawn some of its forces from southern Gaza but is still planning a major assault on the southern city of Rafah, where about one million Palestinians have taken refuge. Biden administration officials have expressed concerns about the plans, and Israeli officials have said they would take that feedback into consideration and consult further with American counterparts.

Under the U.S.-sponsored cease-fire proposal, Israel would halt hostilities for six weeks and release hundreds of Palestinians held in its prisons in exchange for the release of 40 hostages held by Hamas, mainly women, older men and those with health conditions. Later stages of the deal would then extend the cease-fire and result in more hostages being freed.

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