Almost four weeks after Israel sealed off the Palestinian enclave in response to Hamas terrorists killing 1400 people, calls are growing for a full ceasefire or at least a ‘humanitarian pause’ to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, told reporters Thursday that any such temporary cessation would not affect Israel’s ability to defend itself.
‘What we’re trying to do is explore the idea of as many pauses as might be necessary to continue to get aid out and to continue to work to get people out safely, including hostages,’ he said during the White House daily briefing.
He spoke soon after President Joe Biden announced that dozens of American citizens had been able to flee the Gaza Strip.
National security spokesman John Kirby said Thursday the White House was exploring ways that humanitarian pauses could be used to get aid in and hostages out
’74 U.S. citizens with dual citizenship have left the Gaza Strip,’ he said.
Israel faces escalating international criticism for the growing death toll in Gaza.
At the same time, aid agencies say humanitarian assistance being trucked in from Egypt is insufficient.
American officials have rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying it would only let Hamas off the hook, and insisting they would not tell Israel how to wage its war.
But Biden himself added his voice to demands for a ‘humanitarian pause’ at an event on Wednesday night when he was heckled by a rabbi.
He was addressing a crowd of supporters in Minneapolis when a woman stood up and shouted: ‘Mr. President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire.’
He replied by saying he understood the arguments of a small group of protesters.
‘I think we need a pause,” Biden said, before later adding that it would allow time to get captives out of Gaza.
He has been clear that he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel. However, international support for Israel’s military bombardment has weakened amid devastating reports of churches and refugee camps being obliterated.
A Palestinian man holds the dead body of a child in his arms amid destruction caused by Israeli attacks at Al Bureij Refugee Camp as Israeli attacks continue on the 27th day in Gaza City
An Israeli air strike on the Tal Al Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City on Thursday
People check buildings destroyed in an Israeli strike on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The strike has intensified calls for Israel to ease up its attack
‘I think we need a pause,” Biden said on Wednesday evening when interrupted by protesters, before later adding that it would provide time to get captives out of Gaza.
The Gaza health ministry says more than 9,000 people have been killed since the October 7 terrorist attack — although that number is rejected by Biden because the ministry is an agency controlled by the Hamas administration.
That has led other governments and U.N. agencies to call for a full ceasefire and an end to hostilities in Gaza. A ceasefire goes further than a temporary pause, and is generally seen to the be the first step towards political talks.
On Thursday, seven U.N. experts said the Palestinian people found themselves at ‘grave risk of genocide.’
At the same time, Dick Durbin became the first Democratic senator to say a ceasefire was needed.
‘I think it is,’ he told CNN.
‘At least in the context of both sides agreeing, for example, the release of those who have been kidnapped … the immediate release. That should be the beginning of it.’
‘An effort should be made to engage in conversation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s face it, this has gone on for decades.’
Soon after, Sen. Chris Murphy called on Israel to rethink its methods.
‘It’s time for Israel’s friends to recognize that the current approach is causing an unacceptable level of civilian harm and does not appear likely to achieve the goal of ending the threat from Hamas,’ he said.
‘I urge Israel to immediately reconsider its approach.’
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