Biden holds diplomatic calls to help secure temporary truce in Gaza

The deal could see 50 hostages released from Gaza, 150 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons and a four-day truce in Gaza

With a rising death toll and a worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, calls have been increasing for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. AP
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

US President Joe Biden held calls on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim, amid intense diplomatic efforts to secure a temporary truce in Gaza and the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas.

Israel and Hamas earlier agreed to a four-day ceasefire in Gaza, during which aid would be allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip and at least 50 women and children hostages would be released in exchange for 150 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

The truce was initially set to begin on Thursday. But a last-minute delay in negotiations pushed it to Friday at the earliest, according to Israeli officials.

“The two leaders discussed the pause in the fighting, which will allow for surging in much needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” the White House said of the call with Mr Netanyahu.

It said Mr Biden would continue to work towards securing the release of the remaining hostages.

About 240 hostages are believed to have been held by Hamas in Gaza since the October 7 attack on southern Israel. US officials say at least nine are US citizens.

The truce would be the first since Israel launched an unprecedented war on Gaza seven weeks ago.

It was reached through mediation by Qatar, and welcomed by officials around the world.

The White House said that Mr Biden thanked Sheikh Tamim for his “personal role” in reaching the deal.

Israel says the aim of the war, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 14,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, is to destroy Hamas.

It says it will not agree to a general ceasefire. The Biden administration has backed that position.

But amid the rising death toll, concerns are growing over the worsening humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, home to about 2.3 million people, most of whom have been forced to flee to the south of the enclave.

Israel has cut off entry to water, food and electricity. Aid has been trickling in through the Rafah border with Egypt.

Palestinians and Arab leaders have also been concerned that Israel is trying to force Palestinians to leave Gaza through its southern border with Egypt, and not allow them to return.

The White House said that Mr Biden would oppose such an outcome.

In his call with Mr El Sisi, Mr Biden “reiterated that under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, or the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza,” the White House said.

Updated: November 22, 2023, 11:47 PM