Washington — President Biden said Monday that the United States is working to negotiate a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas that would suspend fighting in Gaza for at least six weeks.
In his remarks at the White House alongside King Abdullah II of Jordan, Biden said the deal would “bring an immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks, during which we can then take time to build something more sustainable.
“Over the past month, I have had calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to advance this issue,” Mr. Biden said. “Key elements of the agreement are on the table. Gaps remain, but I encouraged Israeli leaders to continue working toward this agreement. The United States will do everything possible to achieve this.”
Mr. Biden also said the United States did not know how many hostages held by the terrorist group were still alive.
“The anguish their families endure, week after week, month after month, is unimaginable,” he said. “And it’s a top priority for the United States to bring them home.”
The president sent CIA Director William Burns to Cairo this week for further hostage negotiations, after Hamas proposed new terms to the Qatari government:.
King Abdullah pushed for a ceasefire in Gaza following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. After meeting Mr Biden at the White House, the Jordanian leader called for a “lasting ceasefire now”.
“This war must end,” he said, also calling for immediate and increased humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Their meeting then takes place, a crowded town in southern Gaza, near the Egyptian border. Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last bastion, but more than a million displaced Palestinians are estimated to have taken refuge there after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.
Mr. Biden spoke this weekend with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling him that Israel “should not proceed” with an invasion of Rafah unless it has a “credible” plan to ensure the security of people sheltering there.
Mr. Biden reiterated this in his remarks from the White House.
“Many people have been repeatedly displaced, fleeing violence to the north, and are now crowded in Rafah, exposed and vulnerable. They must be protected,” Mr. Biden said. “We have also been clear from the beginning: we oppose any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.”
Abdullah condemned the Israeli military operation, saying “it would certainly produce another humanitarian catastrophe.”
“We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah,” Abdullah said. “The situation is already unbearable for more than a million people who have been pushed back to Rafah since the start of the war. We cannot stand idly by and let this continue.”
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