Biden applauds Gaza ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas

US president backs Israel and condemns Hamas, pledges humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks an hour before a ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas was to go into effect [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden said on Thursday the US welcomes a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and emphasised the US will continue to support Israel militarily.

“The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians,” Biden said in remarks at the White House in Washington.

“These hostilities have resulted in tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children, and I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones,” Biden said.

In a telephone call with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier today, Biden said he “commended” the Israelis for bringing the immediate conflict to an end after 11 days and “assured” Netanyahu of continuing US military support.

Biden said he has spoken with Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of an “intense diplomatic engagement” and he thanked the Egyptians for their role in brokering the agreement

Biden said the US would work with the United Nations and other international organisations to “provide rapid humanitarian assistance” for the people of Gaza.

“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas … in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal,” Biden said.

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely, and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said, promising to continue to pursue “quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end”.

Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire proposal by Egypt to take effect early Friday in Gaza even as the sounds of explosions could still be heard in Gaza.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office announced his security cabinet had voted unanimously for a “mutual and unconditional” truce.

Earlier, a Hamas official said the ceasefire would be “mutual and simultaneous”, the Reuters news service reported.

“The Palestinian resistance will abide by this agreement as long as the Occupation (Israel) does the same,” Taher al-Nono, media adviser to Hamas chief Ismail Haniya, said in a statement.

Egypt had ordered two security delegations into Israel and the Palestinian Territories to work towards upholding the ceasefire, Egyptian state TV reported according to Reuters.

Reaction among analysts in the US to the announcement of a ceasefire was one of cautious relief and recognition that the underlying causes of hostilities remain.

Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, tweeted the ceasefire would be “vulnerable to any number of challenges”.

Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland, called the agreement a “fig leaf” both sides needed and predicted that while the “guns will go silent … the silent violence of occupation” would continue.

Biden had urged Netanyahu to de-escalate tensions in the Gaza conflict “on the path” to a ceasefire in a telephone call on May 19. The two leaders spoke six times in the 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Biden and administration officials have been encouraging Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials to wind down the bombardment of Gaza, The Associated Press news agency reported.

Biden is facing competiting domestic pressures within the US to both support Israel and hold the US ally accountable for is use of American-made weapons and abuses of Palestinian human rights.

Democrats in Congress led by progressive legislators Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders have introduced measures to block a $735m arms sale to Israel.

Biden had taken on a “sharper” tone with Netanyahu during Monday’s call, with the US president telling the Israeli prime minister that criticism of the attacks on Gaza could be warded off for only a limited time, The New York Times reported.

A White House readout of a Biden call to Netanyahu on Monday said Biden had expressed support for a ceasefire, but reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and said nothing about the US urging Israel to bring the fighting to a close.

Source: Al Jazeera