The decision by Israel and Hamas to extend a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, from four days to six, raised hopes that the two sides would agree to a further extension to allow more hostage exchanges and humanitarian aid to enter the Palestinian enclave.
Washington is stepping up efforts to extend a pause that would allow the release of hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons. CIA Director Bill Burns was in Doha on Tuesday (28/11) to meet with his counterparts from Israel, Egypt and Qatar.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the region this weekend and stop in Dubai, the West Bank and Israel.
The latest Israel-Hamas agreement brings the number of freed Israelis to 60. An additional 21 hostages have been freed in separate negotiations.
“We want them all back,” John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, told reporters on Tuesday.
A total of 150 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons, but thousands more have not yet been released.
Although President Joe Biden’s administration views the brief truce as a diplomatic victory, it also puts more pressure on Biden to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to stop fighting permanently.
The White House has so far rejected demands by human rights activists and the progressive wing of Biden’s Democratic Party to end US support for Israeli attacks and urge a permanent ceasefire. US government officials have repeatedly said that currently, humanitarian assistance can only be achieved through the release of hostages so that Israeli attacks can stop and more aid comes in.
“The temporary suspension is insufficient to meet the needs on the ground and to address the human rights conditions prevailing on the ground,” said Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
On Wednesday (29/11), Amnesty and a number of other organizations will provide nearly 1 million signatures calling on Biden to use his influence to create a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
“More and more Americans want a ceasefire,” he told VOA. As many as 53 percent of US voters support calls for a ceasefire, according to the latest Morning Consult survey. (ps/rs)