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US President Biden calls for 'humanitarian pause' amid calls for ceasefire between Israel, Hamas

So far, the White House has rejected calls for ceasefire in the ongoing war, saying that it would constitute a victory for Hamas. The US has strongly backed Israel in the war and has also sent military arsenal to the Mediterranean to assist the Jewish state.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Minnesota Updated on: November 02, 2023 11:37 IST
US President Joe Biden
Image Source : AP US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday called for a 'humanitarian pause' as calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war continue to grow over the rising death count in the conflict-torn Gaza Strip. The White House has so far rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire.

"I think we need a pause," said Biden after his campaign speech in Minneapolis was interrupted by a protester calling for a ceasefire. Notably, the US President has faced intense pressure from human rights groups, world leaders and members of his own Democratic Party, who say that Israel's bombardment of Gaza a 'collective punishment'.

Asked to clarify what a pause meant, he said: “A pause means give time to get the prisoners out. Give time. This is incredibly complicated for the Israelis. I can thoroughly understand the emotions on the Palestinian side of the argument and the Jewish side of the argument.”

The protester yelled, "Mr President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a cease-fire." Biden's presence drew more than 1,000 demonstrators who carried Palestinian flags and signs that said “Stop Bombing Children,” "Free Palestine” and “Ceasefire now.

The US President also said that he supported the two-state solution but insisted that Hamas was a "flat-out" terrorist organisation.

Biden's latest stance represents a subtle departure from the US' initial stance since the war broke out, saying that they would not dictate how Israel carries out its military operations in retaliation for the brutal attack by Hamas on October 7. The US has opined that calling for a ceasefire would result in the victory of Hamas.

The US President has now exerted pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give Palestinians at least a brief reprieve from the relentless military operation that's left thousands dead and pushed the territory into an intensifying humanitarian crisis.

What is happening in Gaza?

According to the Israeli military, ground troops have advanced near  Gaza City in heavy fighting with militants. Meanwhile, hundreds of foreign nationals and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians were allowed to leave Gaza after more than three weeks under siege.

These citizens are the first people allowed to leave Gaza and entered Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, which was previously closed due to unsuccessful negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Hamas. Egypt had been reluctant to open the border fearing a massive influx of Palestinian refugees.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said earlier on Wednesday that Biden's newly confirmed ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, would soon be dispatched to the Middle East and would be tasked in part with “supporting US efforts to create the conditions for a humanitarian pause to address the worsening humanitarian conditions facing Palestinian civilians.

Over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, and supplies of food, medicine, water and fuel are running low. Hospitals in Gaza expressed increasing alarm that the generators running life-saving equipment were dangerously low on fuel after weeks of siege.

More than 8,800 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, and more than 22,000 people have been wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Wednesday, without providing a breakdown between civilians and fighters.

Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ initial attack. Palestinian militants also abducted around 240 people during their incursion and have continued firing rockets into Israel.

Around half of the hostages are believed to be citizens from as many as 25 foreign countries, including an estimated 54 Thais, 15 Argentines, 12 Americans, 12 Germans, six French and six Russians. Qatar mediated negotiations that resulted in the release of four hostages - two Americans and two elderly women. Israel says that Hamas released them due to pressure.

Biden's earlier remarks on Israel

Last month, ahead of his trip to Israel, Biden made strong public statements yet to restrain Israel after the October 7 attack, urging that Israel should not occupy the Gaza Strip.

“I think it'd be a big mistake,” Biden said. “Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas, and the extreme elements of Hamas don't represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again.” Israel left Gaza in 2005; Hamas won the elections the next year. Still, Biden said, “taking out the extremists...is a necessary requirement”.

US President Joe Biden and his aides reportedly believe that Benjamin Netanyahu’s days as Israel’s prime minister are numbered in the fallout of the war in Gaza, reported the Times of Israel.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had also called for "humanitarian pauses" in Gaza as the death count rose sharply due to Israeli airstrikes, drawing widespread condemnation from other countries. Blinken will visit Israel and Jordan on Friday.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | 'Biggest mistake if Israeli military attempts to recapture Gaza', Biden warns Netanyahu

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