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Netanyahu, Biden speak as EU leaders mull call for ‘humanitarian pause’

The U.S. president emphasized that "Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke again on Wednesday night about “ongoing efforts to locate and secure the release of hostages” held by Hamas and ensuring “safe passage for foreign nationals wishing to depart Gaza as soon as possible,” according to the White House.

“The president discussed ongoing U.S. support for the continuous flow of humanitarian support to the civilian population in Gaza and welcomed efforts to increase this support over the coming period,” according to a White House readout of the call.

Biden stressed support for Israel’s “right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism and to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law,” and noted “the importance of focusing on what comes after this crisis to include a pathway for a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians, emphasizing that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations.”

Biden said on Tuesday that goods were not entering Hamas-ruled Gaza quickly enough.

Asked when leaving a White House event if the Palestinian enclave was being replenished sufficiently, Biden responded: “Not fast enough.”

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel should consider “humanitarian pauses” in the war against Hamas to enable goods to enter Gaza.

“Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians. It means food, water, medicine and other essential humanitarian assistance must be able to flow into Gaza and to the people who need it. It means civilians must be able to get out of harm’s way. It means humanitarian pauses must be considered for these purposes,” said Blinken at a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Meanwhile, E.U. leaders were set on Thursday to debate calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the war, with the 27-nation bloc reportedly divided between more pro-Palestinian members such as Ireland and Spain, and staunch Israel supporters such as the Czech Republic, Austria and others.

Following extensive negotiations, a draft statement for Thursday’s summit reportedly calls for “continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures including a humanitarian pause.”

The statement, which could still change when officials meet in Brussels, falls short of demanding a ceasefire.

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