'I hear them': Biden acknowledges US student protests amid push for regional peace

President says administration is 'working around the clock' to end the war and progress a two-state solution

President Joe Biden speaks to graduating students at the Morehouse College commencement in Atlanta. AP
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US President Joe Biden said on Sunday he was working on a “lasting, durable peace” that would include the creation of a Palestinian state.

“We’ve been working on a deal as we speak. Working around the clock to lead an international effort to get more aid into Gaza, rebuild Gaza,” he said during a speech at a graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

As the President spoke, a student in the audience unfurled a Palestinian flag and held it up.

Some members of the graduating class showed support for Palestinians in Gaza by tying keffiyeh scarves around their shoulders on top of their black graduation robes.

Mr Biden said he was also pushing for a regional peace deal “to get a two-state solution, the only solution”.

Student protests have swept across numerous US campuses, presenting political challenges for Mr Biden in an election year where he is poised to face former president Donald Trump in a repeat of the 2020 election.

“I know it angers and frustrates many of you, including my family, but most of all, I know it breaks your heart. It breaks mine as well,” Mr Biden said.

“I support peaceful, non-violent protest. Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them,” he added.

Mr Biden said he wanted an “immediate ceasefire to stop the fighting, bring the hostages home” as the conflict rages on.

“This is one of the hardest, most complicated problems in the world. There's nothing easy about it,” said Mr Biden.

Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel, which ignited the war, killed about 1,200 people. Israel’s subsequent offensive has killed more than 35,400 people in Gaza, according to the enclave's Health Ministry.

The speech at the historically Black college in Atlanta, and another Mr Biden was scheduled to give later that day in the Midwest, was part of an intensified effort to reconnect with Black voters, whose support has waned after playing a crucial role in his 2020 election victory.

Updated: May 20, 2024, 10:29 AM