Biden says Gaza incident will complicate ceasefire talks as administration feels urgency after dozens of Palestinians killed

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President Joe Biden briefly speaks to reporters before boarding the Marine One presidential helicopter and departing the White House on February 29 in Washington, DC.


Washington
CNN

The More than a hundred Palestinians were killed Israeli troops opened fire on a food supply base in Gaza, sparking panic as civilians gathered around food aid trucks, adding urgency to ceasefire talks — but complicating them, President Joe Biden told reporters Thursday.

“We're looking into it right now and there are two competing versions of what happened. I don't have an answer yet,” the president told CNN's Arlette Saenz at the White House.

Asked if he was worried the deaths would complicate negotiations, he replied: “Oh, I know it will.”

At least 100 people were killed at a distribution site when Israeli forces opened fire as civilians waited for food, the health ministry in Gaza said. A local journalist reported that many of the dead were killed Crushed under aid trucks They tried to escape from the firing.

The Israel Defense Forces said the incident was under review.

Nearly five months after Israel's war against Hamas began, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to escalate, with more than 30,000 people killed — including thousands of children — and hundreds of thousands more starving. The edge of famine After relentless Israeli ground and air campaigns.

While Israel faces global pressure to end the conflict, it has largely retained the support of the United States. President Joe Biden has resisted calls for a permanent ceasefire.

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Biden's retreat to break with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to cost him politically. Even though the president won Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary in Michigan, more than 100,000 Michiganders voted “undecided” after a push by Arab-American leaders to show voters' displeasure with Biden's Israel policy. Michigan will be a key state for Biden in the general election.

There has been progress in ceasefire talks in recent weeks but a senior Hamas leader Jupiter warned of murders Negotiations can lead to failure.

Biden spoke Thursday with the leaders of Qatar and Egypt — countries that will play key roles in the negotiations, a White House official said.

The situation “gives extra urgency to the process,” a senior administration official told CNN.

In Biden's conversation with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the two leaders “expressed regret for the loss of civilian life and agreed that the incident underscores the urgency to quickly end negotiations and expand humanitarian assistance to Gaza,” the White House said in a readout.

A call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, according to a White House readout, was similar. Biden thanked al-Sisi for his “leadership in providing humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

For weeks, senior members of Biden's national security team have been closely involved in facilitating talks between Israel and Hamas that would trigger a week-long ceasefire in the fighting and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. It will mark the first stoppage in the war since late November.

Biden said this week that he hoped the cease-fire would be in effect by next Monday — a statement To the surprise of some parties involved In colloquialisms. The White House said Wednesday that the president remains “confident” about that timeline.

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A spokesman for the National Security Council said the White House was investigating what happened and said it was “serious.”

“We mourn the loss of innocent lives and recognize the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where innocent Palestinians are trying to feed their families. This underscores the importance of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, including a possible temporary ceasefire. We continue to work day and night to achieve that end,” he said. The spokesperson said.

On Thursday, Biden continued to express hope that a deal on hostages and a possible cease-fire could be reached soon, but perhaps not in the way he originally hoped.

“Hope is eternal,” Biden said. “I've been on the phone with people in the region and I still am — probably not until Monday, but I'm hopeful.”

This story has been updated with additional updates.

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