The US and Israeli leaders have reportedly discussed halts to the attacks against Hamas to ease aid shipments and hostage releases
US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have reportedly talked about using tactical pauses in West Jerusalem’s military offensive in Gaza to enable more aid shipments to get into the Palestinian enclave and to negotiate more releases of hostages held by Hamas.
No decisions were made as a result of Monday’s talks, but the two leaders agreed to continue discussing the issue in the days ahead, Reuters reported, citing White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “You can expect that we’re going to continue to advocate for temporary and localized pauses in the fighting,” Kirby said. “We consider ourselves at the beginning of this conversation, not at the end of it.”
Some politicians in Biden’s own party have argued that the president’s 2024 re-election bid is threatened by voter disgust over his support for Israel’s incursion in Gaza, which has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians. US Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, went so far on Friday as to accuse Biden of “supporting the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
Although Biden’s administration has repeatedly argued that a general ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas wouldn’t be appropriate, the White House has pushed for humanitarian pauses in recent days amid increasing political pressure and the rising Palestinian death toll. Netanyahu, who met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday morning, said later in the day that Hamas would have to release its Israeli hostages before any pauses to the offensive.
Fewer than 30 aid trucks entered Gaza in the past 24 hours, according to the White House. “We know, gotta get more trucks in,” Kirby said. “It’s still just a trickle. Gotta get more people out. Still just a trickle.”
Hamas fighters killed an estimated 1,400 people during surprise attacks against villages in southern Israel on October 7, and they took more than 200 people as hostages. Four of the hostages, including two Americans, were released, and an Israeli soldier was rescued by Israeli troops. As of Friday, the Israeli Defense Forces estimated that Hamas was still holding 241 hostages.
In addition to possibly enabling hostage releases, tactical pauses could help get foreign nationals and wounded Palestinian civilians out of Gaza, a White House official said on Friday. Halts to the Israeli strikes would also make it easier for civilians to move out of northern Gaza, where the offensive is focused. However, the unidentified official reiterated Washington’s opposition to a general ceasefire. “In a situation in which a terrorist group takes 200 hostages and kills 1,400 people and is hiding under tunnels, including the leaders, a ceasefire is just not really the word to use.”