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Biden says Israel and Hamas should ‘pause’ fighting for hostage release

President Biden spoke in Northfield, Minn., on Wednesday.KENT NISHIMURA/NYT

President Joe Biden said Israel and Hamas militants ought to “pause” fighting in order to allow time to free hostages held in the Gaza Strip, but stopped short of supporting a full ceasefire.

Progressive groups, as well as Muslim and Arab Americans, have criticized Biden over his support for Israel’s campaign against Hamas that has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza. A protester interrupted Biden at a Minneapolis political fundraiser, saying “I need you to call for a ceasefire right now.”

“I think we need a pause,” Biden responded. “A pause means give time to get the prisoners out.”


Biden took credit for getting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow time to “get the prisoners out” before launching a ground invasion, and for persuading Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to let foreigners and wounded Palestinians leave Gaza through his country.

Egypt earlier Wednesday opened its Rafah crossing with Gaza, allowing an initial group of people — including some Americans — to flee the fighting.

The president faced demonstrations earlier in Minnesota over his support for Israel’s military offensive in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre. Eroding support among Muslims and Arab Americans could hamper Biden’s reelection bid in key battleground states. The protester at the fundraiser identified themselves as a Jewish rabbi named Jessica Rosenberg.

“I understand the emotion,” Biden said. “This is incredibly complicated for the Israelis. It’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well.”

Biden said he has supported a two-state solution that would result in the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. But he also defended Israel’s right to go after Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, after militants killed roughly 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took around 240 people hostage.

“The fact is the matter is that Hamas is a terrorist organization. A flat out terrorist organization,” the president said.


At an event earlier Wednesday, Biden said he was encouraged that the pace of aid flowing into Gaza had increased. He also called on Israel to conduct military operations “in a manner that is consistent with international humanitarian law, that prioritizes protection of citizens.”