After push by Biden and Blinken, Netanyahu says Israel open to ‘small pauses’ in Gaza, not ceasefire


WASHINGTON (AP) — After more than a week of public pressure from the United States for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allowed Monday that his government might be open to only “small pauses” in its attack on Hamas. The Israeli leader sought to downplay differences with his country’s most vocal supporter on the world stage at a time of heightened scrutiny of the sharply rising civilian death toll in the fighting.

Netanyahu spoke after President Joe Biden made an almost direct appeal to him A month of war It seeks to rally support behind providing limited relief to civilians in the escalating conflict. These conversations highlighted the challenges facing Biden and his administration as they seek to manage what is emerging as one of the defining foreign policy crises of his presidency.

So far, the United States remains focused on preventing the fighting from erupting into a broader regional war and pressing for limited steps to alleviate civilian suffering. But it has remained steadfast behind Israel and Netanyahu’s goal of ending Hamas’ control of Gaza, even as the war continues The death toll in Gaza reaches 10,000 According to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

Biden used his first conversation with Netanyahu in eight days to privately repeat his public calls for a lull in the fighting to allow civilians to flee Israel’s campaign to crush Hamas and for humanitarian aid to flow to hundreds of thousands of people in need.

“We consider ourselves to be at the beginning of this conversation, not the end of it, so you can expect that we will continue to advocate for an interim solution,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said when describing Biden’s conversation with Netanyahu. A local truce in the fighting.”

Hours later, in an interview with ABC News, Netanyahu ruled out any broad ceasefire, but suggested being open to “small pauses” — though it was not clear whether some sort of small ceasefire had been agreed upon or Whether the United States is ready for this. Satisfied with the scope of the Israeli commitment.

“Well, there will be no ceasefire, a general ceasefire in Gaza without the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu said when asked about Biden’s call for a humanitarian truce. “In terms of small tactical pauses, an hour here, an hour there. We’ve had them before, I suppose, and we will check the conditions in order to enable the entry of cargo and humanitarian goods, or the departure of our hostages, or individual hostages. But I don’t think there will be a general pause.” to shoot fire”.

Biden’s engagement with Netanyahu came on the heels of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s hectic weekend travel that took him from Israel to Jordan, the occupied West Bank, Cyprus, Iraq and then to Turkey to build support for the Biden administration’s proposal on humanitarian initiatives.

“This is all a work in progress,” Blinken said before leaving Türkiye. He added: “It is clear that we do not agree on everything, but there are common views on some of the imperatives of the moment that we are working on together.”

CIA Director William Burns attended a meeting in the Middle East with intelligence partners and leaders of several countries, a US official said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Burns’ travel plans, which are usually informal. The official said that the United States intends that his discussions will strengthen the American commitment to intelligence cooperation, especially regarding terrorism and security.

Came a flurry of American diplomacy Israeli forces surrounded Gaza City and cut off the northern part of the besieged enclave, which is controlled by Hamas. The forces were preparing to enter the city, where they would likely encounter militants fighting street to street using an extensive network of tunnels. Casualties on both sides are likely to rise.

Asked whether this toll gave the United States pause for its strong support for Israel, Kirby said: “I think we all need to remember who they are fighting,” and pointed to the October 7 Hamas incursion into Israel that killed 1,400 people. Most of them. civilians, and the war began. He stressed that no country would tolerate such an attack “without a quick and violent response.”

Kirby said the United States is holding “frank” talks with the Israelis about trying to reduce civilian deaths, but has not been directly involved in Israeli targeting decisions or helped develop the country’s operational plans to invade Gaza, which has a population of 2.3 million. the people.

Blinken said that stopping the war would allow for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza and the release of more than 200 hostages held by Hamas while preventing the conflict from spreading regionally.

“We have communicated with the Israelis about steps they can take to reduce civilian casualties,” Blinken said before leaving Ankara. “We are, as I said, working very hard to get more humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

He added: “We are very focused on the hostages held by Hamas, including Americans, and we are doing everything we can to return them to their homeland.”

As Blinken’s meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan began, dozens of demonstrators from an Islamist group waved Turkish and Palestinian flags and raised anti-US and anti-Israel banners outside the Foreign Ministry. Earlier in the day, police dispersed a group of students who were walking towards the ministry chanting, “Killer Blinken, get out of Turkey!”

Also Monday, about 150 people demonstrated outside the US Embassy in Ankara, carrying a large banner that read, “No to genocide!”

Blinken did not meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoganwho has sharply criticized Netanyahu and is an outlier among NATO allies in not expressing full support for Israel’s right to defend itself.

Turkish officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the talks, said Fidan urged Blinken to prevent the targeting and forced displacement of civilians in Gaza, as well as to press for a “complete ceasefire.”

Blinken’s mission, his second in the region since the war began, found only lukewarm support, if any, for his efforts to contain the repercussions of the conflict. Israel rejected the idea of ​​a temporary halt, while the Arab countries demanded an immediate ceasefire as the number of casualties among Palestinian civilians increased.

Arab countries resist US suggestions that they play a greater role in resolving the crisis, express anger at civilian casualties resulting from Israeli military operations, and believe that Gaza is largely a problem of Israel’s making.

US officials are seeking to convince Israel of the strategic importance of respecting the laws of war by protecting non-combatants and enhancing humanitarian aid deliveries to the besieged civilian population in Gaza.

However, it remains unclear whether Netanyahu will agree to temporary, renewed pauses in the wide-ranging operation to eliminate Hamas — or whether anger among Palestinians and their supporters can be calmed if he does.

Jordan and Turkey have already recalled their ambassadors to Israel to protest its tactics, and the tide of international public opinion appears to be shifting from sympathy for Israel in the wake of the events of October 7 to disgust as images of death and destruction in Gaza spread around the world. .

On Saturday in the Jordanian capital, Amman, the Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers appeared in a joint press conference with Blinken. The two said that Israel’s war had gone beyond self-defense and could no longer be justified because it had now become a measure of collective punishment for the Palestinian people.

This sentiment was echoed by tens of thousands of demonstrators who marched through the streets of world capitals over the weekend to protest against Israel and condemn American support for Israel.

From Turkey, Blinken headed to Asia to attend a series of events in Japan, South Korea and India where the Gaza conflict is likely to share importance with other international crises – including Russia’s war on Ukraine and North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.


Associated Press writers Susan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington contributed to this report. He reported to me from Ankara.

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