Israel has rejected US calls for a temporary cease-fire until Hamas frees all 240 or so hostages it kidnapped in its brutal attack on Israeli civilians.
by Tom Ozimek, The Epoch Times, November 6, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is resisting U.S. calls for a "humanitarian pause" in its fight against Hamas in Gaza, insisting that there would be no temporary cease-fire until the 240 or so hostages held by the terror group are freed.
In the last several days, both President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have called for a temporary pause in the Israel-Hamas war in order to facilitate the flow of aid into Gaza, where Israel's forces have been hunting Hamas operatives in response to the group's slaughter of hundreds of Israeli civilians.
“I think we need a pause,” President Biden said on Nov. 1 after his campaign speech was interrupted by a protester calling for a cease-fire in the month-long Israel-Hamas conflict.
Mr. Blinken, who on Friday was in Israel on a visit, reiterated U.S. support for Israel's campaign to crush Hamas but also echoed President Biden's call for a brief halt in the fighting to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.
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He said America backs Israel’s “right and obligation to defend itself, defend its people and take the steps necessary to try to ensure that this never happens again.”
But Mr. Blinken also warned Israel that it risks undermining the prospects for peace unless it acts quickly to improve humanitarian conditions in Gaza, where weeks of Israeli bombardment have killed many thousands, including over 3,000 children, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health.
“There will be no partners for peace if they’re consumed by humanitarian catastrophe and alienated by any perceived indifference to their plight,” Mr. Blinken said while calling for a humanitarian pause in Israeli operations in Gaza.
“As Israel conducts its campaign to defeat Hamas, how it does so matters,” Mr. Blinken said. “It matters because it’s the right and lawful thing to do. It matters because failure to do so plays into the hands of Hamas and other terrorist groups.”
But the U.S. calls for a temporary cease-fire were met with resistance by the Israeli prime minister, who vowed to press ahead with the military operation unless the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas are released.
Hamas operatives took hundreds of people captive in their Oct. 7 shock assault on Israeli communities while butchering hundreds of others, including women and children.
'Full Force' Ahead
Mr. Netanyahu said in a televised address that he told Mr. Blinken that “we are continuing full force and that Israel refuses a temporary cease-fire that does not include the return of hostages.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who also took part in meetings with Mr. Blinken in Tel Aviv, also did not seem receptive to the U.S. calls for a pause.
Mr. Herzog said that Israel has the right to self-defense and said that Israeli authorities had repeatedly called for non-combatants to evacuate northern Gaza.
“We want you to go out of the premises from where missiles and guns and bombs and mortars are shelled at our people and from where the horrendous atrocious attacks went out. So you move out, so we can go in, according to international law and defend our people,” Mr. Herzog detailed a message that had been sent out to Gazans, including by way of 1.2 million pamphlets dropped on Gaza, along with 6 million recorded messages and 4 million texts with the evacuation warning.
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Meanwhile, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters at a briefing in Washington on Friday on condition of anonymity that there had been "indirect engagement" between the United States and Hamas was underway in order to "try to find a framework to try to get the hostages out."
He said that a hostage release would require a “a very significant pause in the violence,” though he did not provide more details about what that would involve specifically.
The official said that an earlier release of two American women hostages was “a pilot to see if it was possible” to secure hostage releases.
He added that putting a time frame on the potential release of Hamas-held hostages was impossible.
“This is not a process in which two parties are sitting at a table to work something out," he clarified. "The difficulty of actually communicating with those actually responsible, for getting fidelity on how many and who would come out when” is “a very complex process.”
Calling the discussions "intense" and "detailed," the official cautioned that there was “absolutely no guarantee if it is going to happen, or when.”Meanwhile, there have been reports that Hamas may have gunned down scores of civilians trying to flee Gaza in a bid to prevent losing the protection of human shields, with footage posted on social media showing a roadway littered with bullet-riddled bodies.
The Israeli military said Saturday that it had opened an evacuation corridor along the Salah al-Din Road between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time in Gaza.