Washington — President Biden said Monday the U.S. is working to negotiate a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas that would pause fighting in Gaza for at least six weeks.
In White House remarks alongside King Abdullah II of Jordan, Mr. Biden said the deal “would bring an immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build something more enduring.”
“Over the past month I’ve had calls with Prime Minister Netanyahu as well as the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to push this forward,” Mr. Biden said. “The key elements of the deal are on the table. There are gaps that remain but I’ve encouraged Israeli leaders to keep working to achieve the deal. The United States will do everything possible to make it happen.”
Mr. Biden also said the U.S. did not know how many of the hostages being held by the terrorist group are still alive.
“The anguish that their families are enduring, 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 has dispatched the CIA director, William Burns, to Cairo for further hostage talks this week after Hamas provided a new set of terms to the Qatari government,.
Abdullah has pushed for a cease-fire in Gaza in the aftermath of the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7. After meeting with Mr. Biden at the White House, the Jordanian leader called for a “lasting cease-fire now.”
“This war must end,” he said, also calling for immediate and increased humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Their meeting comes as, a crowded city in southern Gaza near Egypt’s border. Israel says Rafah is Hamas’s last remaining stronghold, but more than one million displaced Palestinians are estimated to have taken refuge there after fleeing fighting elsewhere in Gaza.
Mr. Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend, telling him that Israel “should not proceed” with an invasion of Rafah unless it had a “credible” plan for ensuring the safety of the people sheltering there.
Mr. Biden reiterated that in his remarks from the White House.
“Many people there have been displaced, displaced multiple times, fleeing the violence to the north, and now they’re packed into Rafah, exposed and vulnerable. They need to be protected,” Mr. Biden said. “We’ve also been clear from the start, we oppose any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.”
Abdullah condemned Israel’s military operation, saying “it is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe.”
“We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah,” Abdullah said. “The situation is already unbearable for over a million people who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started. We cannot stand by and let this continue.”