Biden Calls for a "Pause" in the Israel-Hamas War to Facilitate Aid Delivery and Evacuate Civilians from the Gaza Strip

U.S. President Joe Biden has stated that, in his opinion, there should be a humanitarian "pause" in the war between Israel and Hamas, following interruptions during his campaign speech on Wednesday evening by protesters calling for a ceasefire.

"I believe we need a pause," Biden said.

This statement marked a subtle shift for Biden and senior White House aides who had consistently maintained throughout the Middle East crisis that they would not dictate to the Israelis how to conduct their military operations in response to Hamas's attack on October 7.

But the U.S. President faced increasing pressure from human rights groups, fellow world leaders, and even liberal members of his own Democratic Party, who argue that Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip constitutes collective punishment and that it's time for a ceasefire.

In his remarks, Biden exerted pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to at least provide Palestinians with a brief respite from the relentless military operation, which has resulted in thousands of casualties and plunged the 141-square-mile strip into a severe humanitarian crisis.

The White House stopped short of calling for a ceasefire but indicated that Israelis should consider humanitarian pauses to allow civilians to receive assistance and for foreign citizens stranded in the Gaza Strip to leave.

Israeli ground forces have advanced near the city of Gaza, engaging in fierce battles with militants, military officials reported on Wednesday. Meanwhile, hundreds of foreign citizens and dozens of seriously injured Palestinians have been permitted to leave the Gaza Strip after more than three weeks of siege.

The first group of evacuees, apart from four hostages released by Hamas and one rescued by Israeli forces, crossed into Egypt, escaping despite explosions forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, with shortages of food, water, and fuel.

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said earlier on Wednesday that Biden's newly appointed ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, will soon be dispatched to the Middle East and will be tasked in part with "supporting U.S. efforts to create conditions for a humanitarian pause to address the deteriorating humanitarian conditions faced by the Palestinian civilian population."

On Wednesday evening, while Biden was addressing a crowd of supporters in Minneapolis about the reasons for his 2020 presidential candidacy, a woman stood up and shouted, "Mr. President, if you care about the Jewish people as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire."

His presence in the city drew more than 1,000 demonstrators near the fundraising venue, carrying Palestinian flags and signs that read "Stop Bombing Children," "Free Palestine," and "Ceasefire Now."

Biden acknowledged that he understands the emotions driving the protesters, who were quickly shouted down by others in the room and removed. When asked, he clarified that the pause "means giving time to get prisoners out." White House representatives later clarified that he meant hostages and humanitarian aid.

"It's incredibly difficult for Israelis," he continued. "It's incredibly difficult for the Muslim world... I've been supportive of a two-state solution from the very beginning."

"The thing about it is, Hamas is a terrorist organization. An outright terrorist organization," he added.

However, Biden noted that he is working on humanitarian assistance, stating that he personally persuaded Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to allow aid into the Gaza Strip.

"I'm the guy," he said.

—Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Collin Binkley in Washington and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.