By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday the United States is pushing for a six-week pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza as a stepping stone toward a longer ceasefire.
Biden and Jordan’s King Abdullah spoke after the two longtime allies held talks in the White House residence. Their discussions covered a daunting list of challenges, including a looming Israeli ground offensive in southern Gaza and the threat of a humanitarian calamity among Palestinian civilians.
Biden, who has shown increasing exasperation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not heeding his advice, said the United States was working with allies in the region on a deal to pause the fighting to allow Gaza hostages to be freed and the flow of humanitarian assistance to increase.
The deal would start with a pause in fighting of at least six weeks, “which we could then take the time to build something more enduring,” Biden said.
Taking the lectern after Biden spoke, Abdullah renewed his appeal for a broad ceasefire.
“We cannot stand by and let this continue,” he said. “We need a lasting ceasefire now. This war must end.”
The meeting came as Biden has become increasingly vocal in his demand that Israel not undertake a ground offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah without a plan to protect Palestinian civilians.
Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Sunday, and the White House said he stressed that “a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than one million people sheltering there.”
Before embarking on a tour of Western capitals, Abdullah participated in an airdrop of humanitarian aid to Gaza, a move that highlighted his kingdom’s role in pushing Israel to stop restricting efforts to fend off illness, hunger and starvation in the enclave.
Biden’s team has been trying to negotiate a pause in the fighting in order to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas since the Palestinian militant group that governs Gaza launched an attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people.
Palestinian health officials estimate that more than 28,000 people in Gaza have been killed in Israel’s offensive against Hamas fighters.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Rosalba O’Brien)