Biden calls for humanitarian ‘pause’ in Gaza

President says there should be a humanitarian “pause” in the Israeli-Hamas war to get “prisoners” out of Gaza…reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden, when responding to a heckler at a Minnesota campaign event Wednesday night, said he thinks there should be a humanitarian “pause” in the Israeli-Hamas war to get “prisoners” out of Gaza.

The 80-year-old Democrat was delivering remarks to some 200 supporters in the northern US state when a member of the audience shouted out to him.

“As a rabbi, I need you to call for a cease-fire right now,” she said, referring to the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The president responded: “I think we need a pause. A pause means giving time to get the prisoners out.”

Asked about his remarks, the White House later clarified that by “prisoners” the president was referring to hostages held by Hamas.

Biden engaged further with the woman, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the nickname Bibi.

“I’m the guy that convinced Bibi to call for a cease-fire to let the prisoners out. I’m the guy that talked to (Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-)El-Sisi to convince him to open the door” along Gaza’s border with Egypt to allow freed hostages to leave.

Biden indicated that he was discussing the recent release of two US hostages formerly held by the Palestinian Islamist group.

The White House has previously called for “humanitarian pauses” to allow aid to be delivered into Gaza or to carry out evacuations, but has so far refused to discuss a cease-fire, believing it would exclusively play into the hands of Hamas.

The war between Israel and Hamas entered its 26th day on Wednesday.

In retaliation for the bloody attack by Hamas on October 7, the Israeli army has relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip, and has launched an increasingly extensive ground operation into the territory.

‘American forces working in Israel’

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that American commandos have been deployed in Israel to locate the hostages.

It reported, quoting Christopher P. Maier, an assistant secretary of defence in the US, “We’re actively helping the Israelis to do a number of things”. He added that a main task was to help Israel “identify hostages, including American hostages. It’s really our responsibility to do so.”

A US official sharing about the deployment said that the Defence Department has dispatched several dozen commandos in recent days, in addition to a small team that was in Israel on October 7 but declined to give the specific number of the security forces deployment.

The New York Times reported that the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational matters, said the commandos would join the FBI, State Department and other US government hostages’ recovery specialists in their discussions with Israeli counterparts.

US forces are not assigned any combatant roles in Israel but are coordinating with the Israeli counterparts “counterparts on what is going to be a very complex fight going forward” in Gaza, Maier said.

In his discussions with his Israeli counterpart, Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin II has stressed the need for careful consideration of how Israeli forces conduct a ground invasion of Gaza, where Hamas maintains an intricate network of tunnels under densely populated areas, The New York Times reported.

“We will work with them as much as possible to help advise them on those types of activities,” Maier said.

The New York Times reported that several Western countries have secretly moved small teams of their own special forces closer to Israel to help with any potential rescue operation and to be nearby to assist in any large-scale evacuations of their citizens from Israel or Lebanon.

Maier said US Special Operations forces in the region are also poised “to help our own citizens get out of places and to help our embassies be secure.”

Meanwhile, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) reported that Tuesday evening its fighter jets, acting on intelligence provided by the ISA (Israeli Security Agency), killed Ibrahim Biari, the commander of Hamas’ Central Jabaliya Battalion.

Biari was one of the leaders responsible for sending “Nukbha” operatives to Israel to carry out the attack on October 7th. Numerous other Hamas operatives were also killed in the strike.

Biari, said the IDF, oversaw all military operations in the northern Gaza Strip since the IDF first began its ground offensive over the weekend. He was also responsible for sending the operatives who carried out the 2004 attack in Ashdod Port, in which 13 Israelis were murdered.

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