GAZA CITY: President Joe Biden has pledged humanitarian and reconstruction aid for Gaza as he hailed a deal to end 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas that tested his negotiating skills and exposed him to criticism from fellow Democrats.
Biden, appearing briefly at the White House after news of the ceasefire agreement, also promised to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, despite complaints from the Democratic left about a pending US arms sale to Israel.
Biden said the US would work through the UN and other international stakeholders “to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for the people in Gaza and in the Gaza reconstruction efforts.”
He insisted that reconstruction aid would be provided in partnership with the Palestinian Authority and not with Hamas, which the US labels a terrorist organization.
The Palestinian Authority, which is run by moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, only governs parts of the occupied West Bank, however, while Hamas holds sway in the Gaza Strip.
“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority — not Hamas — in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal,” Biden said.
Biden on Friday said the Democratic Party still supported Israel and he was praying that the cease-fire between Israelis and Hamas would hold.
Speaking at a White House news conference, Biden said a two-state solution was the only answer to resolving the conflict between the two sides.
Biden, whose administration worked behind the scenes for days to reach a truce, said aid to the region would be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority — Hamas’s Western-backed rival in the occupied West Bank — to ensure Hamas was not able to restock its military arsenal.State Department spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel to the region in coming days to meet Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts to discuss recovery efforts and “working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Biden defended his approach to handling the crisis but gave a nod to his critics, saying Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security just like Israelis.
Gaza emergency workers on Friday recovered five bodies and rescued around 10 survivors from the rubble of what appeared to be a tunnel in Gaza hit by Israeli bombardment, medics and witnesses said.
The recovered bodies take the death toll from Israeli air strikes since May 10 to 243, including 66 children, the Health Ministry says.
Hamas has said that fighters were among those killed.
A Hamas official said that Israel must end its violations in Jerusalem and address the damage from the bombardment of Gaza, warning the group still had its “hands on the trigger.”
“It is true the battle ends today but (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance,” said Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the Hamas political bureau.
He said the movement’s demands also include protecting Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and ending the eviction of several Palestinians from their home in East Jerusalem which Reshiq described as “a red line.”
“What comes after the battle of ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ is not like what came before because the Palestinian people backed the resistance and know that the resistance is what will liberate their land and protect their holy sites,” Reshiq said.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s fortunes have changed dramatically. His rivals’ prospects have crumbled, Netanyahu is back in his comfortable role as Mr. Security, and the country could soon be headed for yet another election campaign that would guarantee him at least several more months in office.
The stunning turn of events has raised questions about whether Netanyahu’s desperation to survive may have pushed the country into its current predicament. While opponents have stopped short of accusing him of hatching just such a conspiracy, they say the fact that these questions are being asked is disturbing enough.