WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States has firmly rejected the idea of an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, emphasizing that the release of hostages held by Hamas is a paramount condition for any peace negotiations.
Amid ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby reiterated the stance of President Joe Biden, stating that Israel must continue its efforts to target Hamas leadership before ceasefire discussions can commence.
This position has put the United States at odds with the United Nations and the European Union, both of which have called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to enable the delivery of vital aid into Gaza. Thomas White, the director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, expressed concern over the dire humanitarian situation in the region, with shortages of shelter, food, and clean water forcing residents to return to their homes in the north.
The conflict, which began after Palestinian militants attacked southern Israeli communities, has led to a significant displacement of Gaza’s population, with the UN estimating that nearly two-thirds of the residents have been forced from their homes.
The Israeli military’s recent strike on a refugee camp in Gaza’s north further escalated the situation, and reports indicated that five people were killed in the attack.
Gaza’s health authority, controlled by Hamas, reported a substantial death toll, with over 5,000 people killed during Israel’s two-week bombardment, including a significant number of women and children.
The conflict initially erupted when Palestinian militants took hostages from southern Israeli communities. Late on Monday, two elderly Israeli women, Yokheved Lifshitz and Nurit Yitzhak, were released after mediation involving Qatar and Egypt. Reports suggested that the United States and Qatar were working to secure the release of 50 dual nationals held by Hamas.
While there have been reports of U.S. pressure on Israel to delay a ground assault on Gaza to allow for more hostage releases and aid deliveries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office denied any internal discord, asserting “total and mutual trust” among the Israeli leadership.
Israel has continued its aerial bombardment of Gaza, indicating its intention to press on with the offensive. Israeli Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi emphasized that their strategy involved unrelenting attacks to target Hamas comprehensively.
Despite the U.S. urging a delay, Israel’s Energy Minister, Israel Katz, stated that efforts would be made to bring hostages home but not at the cost of delaying the ground offensive.
The U.S. has been closely monitoring the situation, sending military advisers to Israel and providing air defense systems to prepare for an expected ground assault into Gaza. U.S. officials have expressed concerns about Israel’s clear military plan to achieve its goal of eradicating Hamas.
The Israel-Hamas conflict continues to escalate, with the international community closely watching the developments, but the path towards a ceasefire remains uncertain as the situation unfolds.