Biden warns of danger if Gaza fighting continues during Ramadan as US conducts more airdrops of aid

President says Hamas has yet to accept the ceasefire deal on the table

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Tuesday 05 March 2024 20:48 GMT
Biden says ‘there's got to be a ceasefire’ in Gaza as Ramadan approaches

President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of the potential cost if Israel and Hamas do not agree to a ceasefire before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and said it was up to to the militant group to accept a six-week ceasefire deal that is on the table.

Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One after spending the weekend with advisers at Camp David, Mr Biden was asked how close the warring parties are to a ceasefire deal.

The president replied: “It’s in the hands of Hamas right now” and explained that the Israeli government has been “cooperating” on reaching an agreement during talks in Cairo.

“There’s been a rational offer. We will know in a couple of days what’s gonna happen. We need a ceasefire,” he said.

Pressed further on whether a deal is possible before Ramadan starts on 11 March, Mr Biden reiterated his prior statement, telling reporters: “There’s got to be a ceasefire.”

“If we get to circumstance that it continues to Ramadan … it’s gonna be very dangerous. So, we are trying very, very hard to get a ceasefire,” he said, adding later that he is working hard to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Asked about his current relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Biden smiled and replied that it is “like it always has been”.

The current round of negotiations is expected to end on Tuesday, but a spokesperson for Hamas told Reuters that the group’s representatives would remain in the Egyptian capital for further negotiations.

The six-week ceasefire proposal would include Israel releasing a number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas releasing a defined set of the more than 100 hostages the group has held captive since the 7 October 2023 terror attacks that touched off the five-month-old war.

A senior Israeli official said “every effort” is being made to reach an accord but the talks are “currently waiting on Hamas” to accept or reject the agreement that is on the table.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have died since the fighting began in the wake of the 7 October attacks, and the Israeli military campaign has brought on what experts describe as a humanitarian crisis and famine in Gaza.

Mr Biden’s comments came as the American and Jordanian air forces jointly conducted a second round of airdrops of aid meant to alleviate food shortages caused in part by Israel’s refusal to allow sufficient aid into Gaza.

White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby told reporters at the daily White House press briefing on Tuesday that US Air Force C-130 aircraft had dropped “60 bundles with a total of more than 36,000 meals ready to eat” into Gaza, with Royal Jordanian Air Force aircraft making more airdrops during the same operation.

“As President Biden has said this will be a part of a sustained effort on our with our international partners to scale up the amount of life saving aid that we’re getting into Gaza,” he said.

Both Mr Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have repeatedly called on the Likud-led Israeli government to allow more food and humanitarian aid into the territory over land routes.

But the Biden administration has steadfastly refused to even consider conditioning American defence aid to Israel on the Israeli’s government allowing a more steady flow of aid into Gaza.

Pressed on why Mr Biden would not consider pegging defence aid to humanitarian aid deliveries Mr Kirby said Mr Biden “still believes it’s important for Israel to have what it needs to defend itself against this still viable Hamas threat”.

Asked how restricting the delivery of humanitarian aid serves Israel’s defence purposes, he replied: “Keeping aid out of Gaza is not the right thing for any purpose”.

“It’s just not acceptable on the face of it ... and that’s why we’re working — more than any other country by the way — to increase the flow,” he said. “We can influence our Israeli counterparts to do more to be more careful to let more aid in and we can continue to work to get that aid in ourselves”.

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