US President Joe Biden has stated that he wants Israel to delay its invasion of Gaza in order to secure the release of more hostages. However, the White House quickly clarified that Biden’s comments should not be interpreted as an attempt to influence Israel’s decision-making.
Biden made the statement as he boarded Air Force One on Friday, responding affirmatively when asked if he was urging Israel to postpone sending troops into Gaza. However, less than an hour later, White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt dismissed Biden’s comments as a misunderstanding, stating that the president did not hear the full question and was only responding to a query about the release of hostages.
The timing of Biden’s comments coincided with the release of two American hostages by Hamas militants. The mother and daughter, who were from Chicago, were freed with the assistance of Qatari mediators. These mediators are still working to secure the release of more captives and are engaged in ongoing negotiations between Hamas and Israel.
Hamas claims to be holding approximately 200 hostages in Gaza, while other militant groups in the territory are holding an additional 50 hostages. Tragically, 20 hostages have been killed in Israeli airstrikes. The status of approximately ten Americans remains unknown, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealing that some of them are believed to be held captive in Gaza.
While these negotiations are ongoing, Israel has been preparing for a potential invasion of the Palestinian enclave. Israeli military officials have indicated their readiness for such an operation, but as of Sunday afternoon, no invasion order had been issued. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had previously promised that an invasion was imminent, but the delay in launching the operation has been attributed to various factors, including adverse weather conditions, the risk of significant Israeli casualties, and potential Iranian intervention.
Bloomberg has reported that the US and some European allies have been pressuring Israel to delay the attack until more hostages are released. Sources involved in the negotiations claim that Israel agreed to hold off under pressure from the US, although the White House has reiterated that the timeline and planning are solely in the hands of the Israeli government.
It is evident that the release of hostages remains a priority for the US, and Biden’s comments reflect his desire to ensure their safety. However, the White House’s subsequent clarification emphasizes that the decision to invade Gaza ultimately rests with Israel. The situation continues to evolve as negotiations and tensions persist in the region.