Skip to main content

US calls for 'temporary, localized' pauses in Israel-Hamas war

People search for survivors and bodies in the rubble of buildings destroyed in a strike on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on November 2, 2023
— Washington (AFP)

US President Joe Biden is calling for humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas conflict that would involve a "temporary, localized" cessation of hostilities –- well short of a general ceasefire -- a senior White House official said Thursday.

At a campaign event on Wednesday Biden was urged by a member of the audience to call for a ceasefire in the war. Biden replied: "I think we need a pause."

Talking to reporters Thursday National Security Council spokesman John Kirby clarified what such a pause would entail.

"A humanitarian pause… is temporary, localized and focused, focused on a particular objective or objectives, humanitarian aid in, people out," Kirby said.

He added: "The general idea is that in that geographic space, for that limited time, there would be a cessation of hostilities, enough to allow whatever it is you're trying to allow."

The White House has previously called for "humanitarian pauses" to allow aid to be delivered into Gaza or to carry out evacuations, but has so far refused to discuss a ceasefire, believing it would exclusively play into the hands of Hamas.

Kirby confirmed that position.

"We aren't advocating for a general ceasefire at this point," he said. "As I said earlier, we believe that a general ceasefire would benefit Hamas in providing them breathing space and time to continue to plot and execute attacks on, on the Israeli people."

The war between Israel and Hamas is nearing one month.

Following the bloody attack by Hamas on October 7, the Israeli army has bombed the Gaza Strip, and has launched an increasingly extensive ground operation into the territory.

The statements from the White House come as Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads on yet another crisis trip to Israel to seek "concrete measures" from its ally to minimize harm to Gaza civilians.

Biden has promised full support and ramped-up military aid to Israel for its retaliatory strikes in Gaza following a Hamas assault, but in a visible shift of tone has also voiced empathy for Palestinian suffering which has stoked anger in the Arab world.