Biden speaks with Qatar, Israel, Egypt leaders about hostages

Biden speaks with Qatar, Israel, Egypt leaders about hostages
Biden speaks with Qatar, Israel, Egypt leaders about hostages

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - An Israeli bombing in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, Nov 23 — US President Joe Biden spoke with the leaders of Egypt, Israel and Qatar yesterday, the White House said, his first publicly announced talks with them since a hostage deal was announced between Israel and Hamas.

Biden and his government negotiated through Qatar and Egypt to arrange the deal, in which Hamas will free at least 50 hostages and Israel will release scores of Palestinian prisoners, while offering a four-day truce to war-battered Gaza.

The three leaders represent different camps, however, with Qatar hosting Hamas’s political office and acting as a major diplomatic conduit, Israel vowing to destroy the Islamist group and Egypt both having long cooperated in Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip while also calling for protections for Palestinian civilians in the most recent conflict.

All three conversations concerned “the deal to secure the release of hostages taken by Hamas during its brutal assault against Israel on October 7 and the latest developments in the region,” the White House said.

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Biden and Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani “committed to remain in close contact to ensure the deal is fully implemented,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

“They reiterated the importance of protecting civilian lives, respecting international humanitarian law and increasing and sustaining humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza,” it said.

When the fighting will halt — and the hostages will be exchanged — remains to be seen, however, with Israeli officials telling AFP that there will be “no pause” before Friday, delaying a widely anticipated lull which had been expected to start at 10.00am local time

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Biden spoke in separate calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In his call with Netanyahu, the president “assured the Prime Minister that he will continue working to secure the release of all remaining hostages.”

“The President further emphasised the importance of maintaining calm along the Lebanese border as well as in the West Bank.”

Meanwhile Biden told Sisi that “under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank” or “the redrawing of the borders of Gaza” — while also affirming that Gaza cannot “remain a sanctuary for Hamas.”

“The President affirmed his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state and recognised Egypt’s essential role in setting the conditions for that outcome.”

The current bout of fighting between Israel and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, erupted October 7 after Hamas fighters carried out the deadliest attack in Israel’s history, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostages.

Israel has responded with an overwhelming bombing and ground campaign, leaving much of the coastal territory in rubble and killing 14,100 people, including thousands of children.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that there will be no long-term ceasefire, saying his goal remains to destroy Hamas. — AFP

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