President Joe Biden said he thought there should be a humanitarian “pause” in the Israel-Hamas war, after his campaign speech Wednesday evening was interrupted by a protester calling for a cease-fire. “I think we need a pause,” Biden said. The call was a subtle departure for Biden and top White House aides, who throughout the Mideast crisis have been steadfast in stating they will not dictate how the Israelis carry out their military operations in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas.
AdvertisementBut the president has faced intensifying pressure from human rights groups, fellow world leaders and even liberal members of his own Democratic Party, who say that the Israeli bombardment of Gaza is collective punishment and that it is time for a cease-fire.
In his comments, Biden was exerting pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give Palestinians at least a brief reprieve from the relentless military operation that’s left thousands dead and mired the 141-square-mile strip in a roiling humanitarian crisis. The White House has refused to call for a cease-fire but has signaled that the Israelis should consider humanitarian pauses to allow civilians to receive aid and for foreign nationals trapped on the strip to leave Gaza. Israeli ground troops have advanced near Gaza City in heavy fighting with militants, the military said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, hundreds of foreign nationals and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians were allowed to leave Gaza after more than three weeks under siege. The first people to leave Gaza — other than four hostages released by Hamas and another rescued by Israeli forces — crossed into Egypt, escaping even as bombings drive hundreds of thousands from their homes, and food, water and fuel run low.
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AdvertisementBut Biden noted that he’s been working on humanitarian aid, saying he was the one who convinced both Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to allow aid into Gaza. “I’m the guy,” he said.