WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday welcomed the announcement of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, ending nearly two weeks of violence in the region.
In a speech of about three minutes at the White House, Biden said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had informed him that the country had agreed to “a mutual and unconditional ceasefire to begin in two hours.” Biden said the Egyptians informed the United States that Hamas also agreed to the ceasefire.
“In my conversations with President Netanyahu, I congratulated him on his decision to end the current hostilities in less than 11 days. I also emphasized what I have said throughout this conflict: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend. itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups, ”Biden said.
Biden said he had spoken to Netanyahu six times in the past few days and assured him on Thursday of his “full support” to help “rebuild” Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Biden said he had spoken to PA President Mahmoud Abbas “more than once”.
Biden said the United States will also work with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza. Biden said he would do so in partnership with the Palestinian Authority “in a way that would not allow Hamas to simply replenish its military arsenal.”
“I believe that Palestinians and Israelis also deserve to live in safety and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our silent and relentless diplomacy to this end.”
The statement was Biden’s first public comment on the conflict since prerecorded remarks Sunday for an Eid celebration at the White House. On Wednesday, the White House appeared to publicly increase calls for a resolution to the fighting, saying in a statement that Biden had told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he “expected a significant de-escalation” of tensions “on the way to death. ‘a ceasefire. Fire.”
Biden had faced mounting pressure over the past week from his own party to take a tougher approach to the conflict in Gaza and explicitly call for a ceasefire during the first major foreign policy crisis of his presidency.
A group of progressive Democratic lawmakers earlier this week tried to block the sale of $ 735 million US precision-guided weapons to Israel. Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced a resolution calling on the Senate to support an immediate ceasefire.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House was engaged in diplomacy behind the scenes, with administration officials making more than 80 calls with senior officials and world leaders in the Middle East since the beginning of the fighting.
Biden met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi on Thursday to discuss “efforts to achieve a ceasefire that will end current hostilities in Israel and Gaza,” the White House said. Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke with King Abdullah II of Jordan and “briefed the king on intensive US diplomatic efforts to support the path to a ceasefire in Gaza.”
Netanyahu’s security cabinet has agreed “to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral ceasefire, which will come into effect at a later date,” the government said in a statement.
Hamas leader Osama Hamdan told Lebanese television station Al-Mayadeen that the ceasefire would begin at 2 a.m. local time on Friday (7 p.m. ET Thursday). “We have obtained guarantees from the mediators that the aggression against Gaza will stop,” he said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been in close contact with regional leaders, plans to travel to the region to meet with his Israeli, Palestinian and other counterparts in the coming days to discuss “ recovery efforts and to work together to build a better future for Israelis. and the Palestinians, ”said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department.
Days of airstrikes have killed at least 230 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 Israelis, according to officials on both sides. It started with clashes that first erupted months ago in Jerusalem and turned into a conflict that spread far beyond the ancient city walls – leading to a wave of community unrest. in Israel and protests around the world.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, at least 65 Palestinian children were killed in Israel’s bombardment of the tiny blockaded Gaza Strip.
Nearly 2,000 people have been injured and tens of thousands displaced in the densely populated enclave, home to some 2 million Palestinians.
Adela Suliman contributed.