April 14, 2024

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Biden says Gaza incident will complicate ceasefire talks as administration feels urgent after dozens of Palestinians killed

Biden says Gaza incident will complicate ceasefire talks as administration feels urgent after dozens of Palestinians killed

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden speaks briefly with reporters before boarding the presidential helicopter Marine One and leaving the White House on February 29 in Washington, D.C.


the More than a hundred Palestinians were killed An attack on a food distribution site in Gaza where Israeli forces opened fire, sparking panic as civilians gathered around food aid trucks, has increased the urgency of ceasefire talks — but may also complicate them, President Joe Biden told reporters Thursday.

“We're checking it out now, there are two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet,” the president told CNN's Arlette Saenz at the White House.

When asked if he was concerned that the deaths would complicate negotiations, he replied: “Oh, I know it will.”

The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 100 people were killed at the distribution site after Israeli forces began shooting while civilians were waiting for food. A local journalist said many were dead as well Crushed under aid trucks Who were trying to escape from the shooting.

The Israeli army said that “the incident is under review.”

Nearly five months after the start of Israel's war against Hamas, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to escalate, with more than 30,000 people killed – including thousands of children – and hundreds of thousands starving as officials warn that the Strip is under siege. The brink of starvation After continuous Israeli ground and air campaigns.

While Israel faces increasing global pressure to stop the conflict, it has largely retained the support of the United States. President Joe Biden has resisted calls for a permanent ceasefire.

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Biden's reticence to break with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to cost him politically. While the president alone won Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary in Michigan, more than 100,000 Michiganders voted “uncommitted” after a campaign by Arab American leaders to show voter dissatisfaction with Biden's policy toward Israel. Michigan will be a crucial state for Biden in the general elections.

There has been progress in ceasefire negotiations in recent weeks, but a senior Hamas leader He warned against the killings on Thursday It can lead to failed talks.

A White House official said that Biden spoke on Thursday with the leaders of Qatar and Egypt, two countries that play an important role in the negotiations.

A senior administration official told CNN that the situation “gives more urgency to the process.”

In Biden's conversation with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the two leaders expressed their “sadness at the loss of civilian lives and agreed that this incident underscores the urgent need to end negotiations as soon as possible and expand the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.” The White House said in its reading.

The call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was similar, according to White House readings. Biden also thanked Sisi for his “leadership in delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

For weeks, senior members of Biden's national security team have been closely involved in facilitating negotiations between Israel and Hamas, which would lead to a weeks-long cessation of fighting and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. This will be the first cessation of war since late November.

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Biden himself said this week that he hopes to reach a ceasefire by next Monday – a statement Some concerned parties were surprised In conversations. The White House said Wednesday that the president remains “optimistic” about that timeline.

A National Security Council spokesman said the White House was looking into what happened, describing it as “serious.”

“We mourn the loss of innocent lives and acknowledge the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, as innocent Palestinians try to feed their families. This underscores the importance of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza, including through a possible temporary ceasefire. We continue to work,” the spokesman said. Day and night to achieve this result.”

Biden on Thursday continued to express optimism that a hostage agreement and possible ceasefire could be reached soon, but perhaps not as quickly as he had originally hoped.

“Hope springs eternal,” Biden said. “I've been on the phone with people in the area, and I'm still – maybe not by Monday but I'm optimistic.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.