President Joe Biden has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause the fighting in Gaza for humanitarian reasons. This comes as the death toll from the conflict rises and some world leaders express concern over Israel’s actions.
Biden said he asked Netanyahu for a humanitarian pause during their phone call on Monday. He did not give any details about the duration or the conditions of the pause. He said he was still waiting to hear from other parties involved in the situation.
“I didn’t get a chance to talk to him today,” Biden said Tuesday. “I did ask him for a pause in the past — yesterday. I’m still waiting to hear from other people.”
According to a report by Axios1, Biden also proposed a three-day pause in exchange for the release of up to 15 hostages by Hamas. The militant group would have to provide a list of the names of the people it is holding captive. Israel estimates that about 240 people are in the custody of Palestinian militant groups.
Netanyahu, however, was reluctant to agree to the proposal, Axios reported. He was worried that Hamas could use the pause to attack Israeli soldiers or that Israel could lose international support for its military operation.
Some international leaders have criticized Israel for its strikes on Gaza, especially on refugee camps. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, who had previously backed Israel’s right to self-defense, said Israel’s actions were “a bridge too far.”
“Bombing an entire refugee camp with the intention of taking out one terrorist, I don’t think you can say that is proportional,” De Croo said.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, is reportedly confident that Israel is more open to the idea of a pause, according to Politico2. The administration has been trying to balance its support for Israel with its concern for the civilians in Gaza.
The war has killed over 10,000 Palestinians, Gaza’s health ministry said. More than 200 people have died in Israel, according to the Israeli military.
Future of Gaza
Biden and Netanyahu also discussed the possibility of “tactical pauses” to allow civilians to leave the areas of fighting, to deliver aid to those in need, and to enable potential hostage releases, according to the White House3.
Netanyahu said he was willing to consider short pauses, but not a full cease-fire until Hamas releases all hostages.
“As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there, we’ve had them before, I suppose, we’ll check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages to leave,” Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC’s David Muir4.
Netanyahu also said that Israel would have the “overall security responsibility” of Gaza for an indefinite period, in contrast to Biden’s position. Biden, who supports a two-state solution, said it would be a “big mistake” for Israel to reoccupy Gaza.
The White House reiterated Biden’s stance during a press briefing Tuesday.
“We’re having active discussions with our Israeli counterparts about what post-conflict Gaza looks like,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications. “The president maintains his position that reoccupation by Israeli forces is not the right thing to do.”