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US President Joe Biden's administration is discussing “humanitarian pauses” in the bombardment of Gaza in nearly every conversation with Israel, the White House said on Wednesday, as it pushes to get more aid into the besieged enclave and bring hostages out.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that more than one humanitarian pause may be required to secure the release of all hostages being held by Hamas.
“I can confirm that in almost every conversation that we're having with the Israelis right now, we're talking about the benefit of humanitarian pauses,” Mr Kirby told reporters at the White House.
“We want to stay open to the idea that it might take effect, like we could take more than one humanitarian pause to get them [hostages] all out.”
His comments came amid rising international concern over the soaring death toll in Gaza and the worsening humanitarian situation, as the war enters its second month.
Mr Kirby would not confirm a report by Axios on Monday that Mr Biden had called for a three-day pause in fighting in Gaza during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow for the release of some hostages.
On October 7, Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking about 240 hostages, including US citizens.
The Biden administration has staunchly supported Israel, pledging more military aid and opposing a general ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas.
Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea in an effort to eradicate Hamas – a goal the Biden administration said it supports.
More than 10,500 Palestinians have been killed, the majority of them women and children, according to local health authorities, raising concerns about breaches of international law and the proportionality of Israel's response.
The US maintains Israel has a right to defend itself, which it must do in accordance with international law.
Mr Kirby said 80 lorries carrying humanitarian aid had entered Gaza in the past 24 hours, a pace that remains insufficient for the needs of 2.3 million Palestinians, who are suffering from shortages of water, food, medicine and fuel after Israel tightened the siege on the territory.
He also said 500 to 600 American citizens and their families remained in Gaza. About 400 were able to evacuate in recent days.