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US President Joe Biden's administration is facing mounting domestic and global pressure to try to moderate Israel's deadly response to the October 7 Hamas attacks, including by supporting a ceasefire.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to urge the Israeli government and military to agree to “humanitarian pauses” with Hamas while on his trip to Israel on Friday.
“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,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Israel has said as many as 240 people are being held hostage by militant groups in Gaza.
Despite a soaring civilian death toll in the enclave, the US has refused to back calls for a ceasefire, something many countries are demanding.
On Wednesday, Mr Biden was interrupted by an audience member at a 2024 campaign event, who shouted that the President should call for a ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.
“I think we need a pause,” Mr Biden said in response. “A pause means give time to get the prisoners out.”
Hamas launched a deadly attack outside the Gaza Strip on October 7 that killed about 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
Four hostages have been released by Hamas in the weeks since and one has been rescued by the Israeli military.
Israel's response to the attack has killed more than 9,000 people in Gaza, according to local authorities. One Palestinian American described conditions there as “hell on Earth”.
Meanwhile, the second highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, called for a ceasefire on Thursday.
When CNN asked him whether a ceasefire needed, he responded: “I think it is. At least, under the context of both sides agreeing.”
Mr Durbin said that a ceasefire should be contingent on the release of hostages.
“The release of those kidnapped should be part of this – immediate release – that should be the beginning of it,” he said.
“An effort should be made to engage in conversation between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Mr Durbin is believed to be the first US senator to support a ceasefire, joining more than 20 members in the House of Representatives who already have.