US President Joe Biden speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to welcome the hostage deal that will include the release of 50 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, a four-day lull in fighting in the Palestinian enclave, and the release of some 150 Palestinian prisoners.
The implementation of the deal was set to start Thursday but, in a surprise announcement close to midnight, a top Netanyahu aide said the hostage release won’t begin before Friday at the earliest.
According to a White House readout of the call, Netanyahu and Biden “discussed the pause in the fighting, which will allow for surging in much needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” and agreed to remain in close contact directly in the coming days.
Netanyahu thanked Biden “for his tireless efforts, and those of his team, to help broker this deal,” the readout says, adding that the president “assured the Prime Minister that he will continue working to secure the release of all remaining hostages.”
Biden also spoke to Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar on Wednesday to express his appreciation for Qatar’s role in the hostage talks, as host to Hamas’s political leadership in Doha.
They too agreed to remain in close contact “to ensure the deal is fully implemented and to ultimately secure the release of all hostages.”
They also agreed to “continue close consultation on setting the conditions for a durable and sustainable peace in the Middle East, to include the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
In a separate call with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi Biden thanks Cairo for its efforts in bringing the deal about.
The pair discussed surging humanitarian aid into Gaza during the truce.
Biden also reiterated “that under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, or the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza.”
These talking points have been used repeatedly by US official in recent weeks but this appears to be the most forceful version of them and comes days after an Israeli minister, Gila Gamliel, penned an op-ed calling on the international community to advance “voluntary resettlement” of Gazans.
Biden also “affirmed his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state and recognized Egypt’s essential role in setting the conditions for that outcome,” the US readout says.
Source : The Times of Israel