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Biden, Netanyahu review hostage-release talks in new call: White House

By AFP

April 29, 2024 12:22 AM


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US President Joe Biden spoke with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone Sunday and "reviewed ongoing talks" to free hostages taken by Hamas during their October 7 attack on Israel, the White House said.

The two allies "reviewed ongoing talks to secure the release of hostages together with an immediate ceasefire in Gaza," the White House statement said, as diplomatic efforts intensified to reach a long-sought truce in the war-battered region.

The Israeli government has come under intense pressure from its global allies to reach a ceasefire, as well as from protesters within Israel demanding the release of hostages seized by the Palestinian militant group during the attack that triggered the war.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to mediate a new truce for months.

Biden and Netanyahu "also discussed increases in the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza including through preparations to open new northern crossings starting this week," the statement said.

"The President stressed the need for this progress to be sustained and enhanced in full coordination with humanitarian organizations," it said.

With humanitarian agencies sounding ever more dire warnings of a crisis in Gaza, Israel has come under increasing pressure -- globally and from the United States specifically -- to allow more aid into the territory.

Biden also "reiterated his clear position" on any Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, the statement said.

Netanyahu has vowed to send troops into Rafah, where more than 1.5 million civilians have taken refuge.

The Biden administration, while backing Israel, has repeatedly voiced alarm over the heavy toll on civilians in the Gaza offensive and has pressed Israel to hold off on any Rafah assault.


AFP


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