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Biden Aims to Change the Course of the War as Captives Are Freed

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After seven weeks of combating a disaster that defies straightforward options, President Biden may take solace in saving a single 4-year-old lady whose dad and mom have been killed within the Oct. 7 terrorist assault on Israel. But gratifying because it was to safe the discharge of Avigail Idan from her Hamas captors over the weekend, the problem for Mr. Biden going ahead isn’t solely to free the remainder of the Americans being held hostage however to make use of the success of current days to change the trajectory of the struggle consuming Gaza.

At the president’s urging, the 2 sides agreed on Monday to increase the momentary pause within the struggle between Israel and Hamas two extra days to permit the discharge of an extra 20 hostages, in line with Qatar, the Persian Gulf emirate that has been serving as middleman. That provides all sides extra respiration area however solely postpones essentially the most important query by one other 48 hours — specifically what occurs each time the negotiated pause finally expires.

Israel has vowed to renew its withering assault on Hamas as soon as the hostage releases finish, and Mr. Biden has stated repeatedly that the nation has a proper to defend itself after a terrorist assault that killed an estimated 1,200 individuals. At the identical time, the president hopes to affect any recent army motion, guaranteeing that it’s extra focused and does extra to keep away from civilian casualties. The White House has already warned Israel in opposition to transferring into southern Gaza, the place many Palestinians dwelling within the coastal enclave have fled, and not using a concrete plan to guard civilians.

“Biden’s in a bind,” stated Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East negotiator now on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He’s tethered himself to Israel’s war aims — eradicating Hamas. But in view of the rising humanitarian catastrophe and the exponential rise in Palestinian deaths, he’s looking for ways to de-escalate and eventually for an exit ramp.”

“Freeing hostages is one way to try and extend the truce, get aid into Gaza and hostages out,” Mr. Miller added. “But there’s a moment of decision coming when Israel seeks to resume its ground campaign. Will he press Israel to stop or at least try to shape its operations in the south?”

The announcement on Monday of a two-day extension within the truce got here after a weekend of phone diplomacy by Mr. Biden. He consulted with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, on Saturday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday.

In working to increase the pause and hostage releases, Mr. Biden has American pursuits to think about in addition to these of Israel. Among the 240 hostages taken by Hamas, 10 have been believed to be American. Among these launched beneath the unique deal brokered final week by Mr. Biden to free 50 hostages, the one American to be handed over to date has been Avigail, who has twin citizenship within the United States and Israel and whose title is commonly spelled Abigail in U.S. media.

Two American ladies from that group are anticipated to be among the many hostages set to be launched on Monday within the ultimate stage of the preliminary deal between Israel and Hamas, leaving seven American males in captivity. Mr. Biden hopes the newly introduced extension of the pause will end in extra Americans being freed. Israel has stated it might prolong the pause by a day for every 10 further hostages launched.

“We’re grateful that we’ve got an extra two days to work with here,” stated John F. Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council. “That will result in the release of 20 more individuals, women and children.” He added: “We’d certainly like to see even that extension extended further until all the hostages are released. That’s really the goal here. Get all the hostages home with their families where they belong however long that could take.”

Mr. Biden and his group have been obscure about what occurs after that. “We’re going to continue to urge our Israeli counterparts as they plan to go back to military operations that they do it in the most discreet, deliberate, careful, cautious way possible,” Mr. Kirby stated.

The longer the pause, nonetheless, the extra time Hamas has to regroup in preparation for additional Israeli assault. Jake Sullivan, the president’s nationwide safety adviser, acknowledged over the weekend that Hamas had exploited the hostage settlement to construct itself again up after weeks of airstrikes and floor assaults by Israeli army forces.

“I can’t deny that Hamas gained some benefits from this deal,” Mr. Sullivan stated on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “One of them is the ability to refit and retool inside Gaza. Another is to try to use social media and other formats to generate some propaganda out of it.” But he added that the trade-off had been dozens of “innocent people coming out of Gaza to be reunited with their families.”

Republicans have provided blended responses to the hostage deal-making, leery of difficult Mr. Netanyahu, the chief of Israel’s right-wing governing coalition, at the same time as they castigate Mr. Biden for supposed weak spot. Mr. Netanyahu agreed not solely to enter a brief truce to facilitate the discharge of hostages but in addition to launch three Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for varied crimes for each one hostage freed beneath the deal brokered by Mr. Biden.

“What I’m grateful for is that these hostages have been returned to their families,” former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican presidential candidate, stated on “State of the Union” on CNN over the weekend. “That’s extraordinarily important and humane to have that done. So I think President Biden deserves credit for that.”

“Where I think he’s starting to err,” Mr. Christie added, is “to say he hopes that this continues, that the truce continues. He can’t be doing that kind of stuff, in my view, publicly.”

Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, took a harsher place on “Fox News Sunday.” While he stated he didn’t “want to second-guess the Israeli government,” he was joyful to second-guess Mr. Biden, accusing him of not supporting Israel sufficient.

“I have to say it seems like President Biden puts more pressure on Israel than he does on Hamas and its hosts in Qatar,” Mr. Cotton stated. “The Biden administration has consistently behind the scenes insisted that Israel’s government take steps that are clearly not in Israel’s interest,” he added, citing the supply of gas to Gaza, which he stated would help Hamas, not simply civilians.

Still, the pause in preventing has eased among the criticism Mr. Biden has taken from the left wing of his occasion, which has assailed him for, in its view, supporting Israel an excessive amount of. Israel’s army marketing campaign has killed hundreds of civilians in Gaza even because it has targeted on destroying Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

The launch of Avigail gave Mr. Biden a small however emotionally highly effective victory amid all of the tumult within the area. Taken hostage after her dad and mom have been gunned down in entrance of her, Avigail spent seven weeks in captivity and turned 4 on Friday within the arms of Hamas. Her case generated waves of worldwide concern and condemnation.

“She’s been through a terrible trauma,” Mr. Biden stated. “What she endured is unthinkable.”

But he reveled in her launch. “Thank God she’s home,” he stated. “I wish I was there to hold her.”

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