February 24, 2024

US President Joe Biden has pledged to work to avoid the immediate resumption of the Gaza war as he welcomed the completion of the third phase of the Gaza hostage deal. The deal resulted in the release of 40 Israelis, one Filipino, and 17 Thai citizens. “We’ll work to extend the deal,” Biden told reporters during a brief press conference in Nantucket. “This deal is structured so it can be extended to keep building on these results. That is my goal, that is our goal, this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into Gaza,” he said.

Biden spoke about the deal, which included a four-day pause in the Gaza War that began at 10 a.m. Friday and was scheduled to end on Tuesday morning after the final release of at least 10 or 11 Israeli captives. Israel in exchange agreed that for every hostage released, it would free three jailed Palestinian women and minors, held on security-related offenses. Some 78 Palestinian prisoners were freed in the first two days, and an additional 39 were expected to be released on Sunday.

During the pause, some 200 trucks of humanitarian aid a day have entered Gaza through Rafah. Biden was instrumental in the creation of the deal together with Egyptian and Qatari mediators, and he told reporters he was looking for a way to extend the pause. In the future, he said, hard and necessary steps are needed to build an integrated future for the region that includes a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I would like to see the pause go on as long as prisoners are going out,” he said. “All the players in the region are looking for a way to end this so the hostages are released and Hamas is no longer in control of any portion of Gaza,” Biden said.

He also spoke about the release Sunday of Avigail Idan, four, who holds Israeli-American citizenship. “Today she is free,” he said. “She has been through a terrible trauma. Her mom was killed in front of her when her Kibbutz was attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7.” “What she endured is unthinkable,” he said. “Thank God she is home. I wish I were there to hold her,” Biden said.