Biden Hopes to Alter the Trajectory of the War as Hostages Are Released

After seven weeks of fighting a disaster that defies straightforward options, President Biden might take solace in saving a single 4-year-old lady whose mother and father have been killed in the Oct. 7 terrorist assault on Israel.

But gratifying as it was to safe the launch of Avigail Idan from her Hamas captors over the weekend, the problem for Mr. Biden going ahead isn’t solely to free the relaxation of the Americans being held hostage however to use the success of latest days to alter the trajectory of the struggle consuming Gaza.

At the president’s urging, the two sides agreed on Monday to lengthen the short-term pause in the struggle between Israel and Hamas two extra days to permit the launch of an extra 20 hostages, in accordance to Qatar, the Persian Gulf emirate that has been serving as middleman. That provides all sides extra respiration house however solely postpones the most important query by one other 48 hours — particularly what occurs at any time when the negotiated pause ultimately expires.

Israel has vowed to resume its withering assault on Hamas as soon as the hostage releases finish, and Mr. Biden has mentioned repeatedly that the nation has a proper to defend itself after a terrorist assault that killed an estimated 1,200 individuals. At the identical time, the president hopes to affect any contemporary navy motion, guaranteeing that it’s extra focused and does extra to keep away from civilian casualties. The White House has already warned Israel in opposition to transferring into southern Gaza, the place many Palestinians dwelling in the coastal enclave have fled, with no concrete plan to shield civilians.

“Biden’s in a bind,” mentioned Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East negotiator now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “He’s tethered himself to Israel’s war aims — eradicating Hamas. But in view of the rising humanitarian catastrophe and the exponential rise in Palestinian deaths, he’s looking for ways to de-escalate and eventually for an exit ramp.”

“Freeing hostages is one way to try and extend the truce, get aid into Gaza and hostages out,” Mr. Miller added. “But there’s a moment of decision coming when Israel seeks to resume its ground campaign. Will he press Israel to stop or at least try to shape its operations in the south?”

The announcement on Monday of a two-day extension in the truce got here after a weekend of phone diplomacy by Mr. Biden. He consulted with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, on Saturday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday.

In working to lengthen the pause and hostage releases, Mr. Biden has American pursuits to contemplate as effectively as these of Israel. Among the 240 hostages taken by Hamas, 10 have been believed to be American. Among these launched beneath the authentic deal brokered final week by Mr. Biden to free 50 hostages, the solely American to be handed over up to now has been Avigail, who has twin citizenship in the United States and Israel and whose title is commonly spelled Abigail in U.S. media.

Two American women from that group had been anticipated to be amongst the hostages launched on Monday in the closing stage of the preliminary deal between Israel and Hamas, however weren’t freed. That was a big setback for Mr. Biden, who was already beneath criticism for failing to win the launch of the overwhelming majority of the American hostages.

Now the query shall be whether or not all or any of the Americans shall be amongst the hostages turned over throughout the two-day extension agreed to on Monday. Israel has mentioned it might lengthen the pause by a day for every 10 further hostages launched.

“We’re grateful that we’ve got an extra two days to work with here,” John F. Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, mentioned earlier than it grew to become recognized that no Americans could be launched on Monday. “That will result in the release of 20 more individuals, women and children.”

He added: “We’d certainly like to see even that extension extended further until all the hostages are released. That’s really the goal here. Get all the hostages home with their families where they belong however long that could take.”

Mr. Biden and his group, although, have been obscure about what occurs after that. “We’re going to continue to urge our Israeli counterparts as they plan to go back to military operations that they do it in the most discreet, deliberate, careful, cautious way possible,” Mr. Kirby mentioned.

The longer the pause, the extra time Hamas has to regroup in preparation for additional Israeli assault, in accordance to navy consultants. Jake Sullivan, the president’s nationwide safety adviser, acknowledged over the weekend that Hamas had exploited the hostage settlement to construct itself again up after weeks of airstrikes and floor assaults by Israeli navy forces.

“I can’t deny that Hamas gained some benefits from this deal,” Mr. Sullivan mentioned on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “One of them is the ability to refit and retool inside Gaza. Another is to try to use social media and other formats to generate some propaganda out of it.” But he added that the trade-off had been dozens of “innocent people coming out of Gaza to be reunited with their families.”

Republicans have provided blended responses to the hostage deal-making, leery of difficult Mr. Netanyahu, the chief of Israel’s right-wing governing coalition, even as they castigate Mr. Biden for supposed weak point. Mr. Netanyahu agreed not solely to enter a brief truce to facilitate the launch of hostages but in addition to launch three Palestinians held in Israeli prisons for varied crimes for each one hostage freed beneath the deal brokered by Mr. Biden.

“What I’m grateful for is that these hostages have been returned to their families,” former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican presidential candidate, mentioned on “State of the Union” on CNN over the weekend. “That’s extraordinarily important and humane to have that done. So I think President Biden deserves credit for that.”

“Where I think he’s starting to err,” Mr. Christie added, is “to say he hopes that this continues, that the truce continues. He can’t be doing that kind of stuff, in my view, publicly.”

Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, took a harsher position on “Fox News Sunday.” While he mentioned he didn’t “want to second-guess the Israeli government,” he was pleased to second-guess Mr. Biden, accusing him of not supporting Israel sufficient.

“I have to say it seems like President Biden puts more pressure on Israel than he does on Hamas and its hosts in Qatar,” Mr. Cotton mentioned. “The Biden administration has consistently behind the scenes insisted that Israel’s government take steps that are clearly not in Israel’s interest,” he added, citing the supply of gas to Gaza, which he mentioned would support Hamas, not simply civilians.

Still, the pause in preventing has eased some of the criticism Mr. Biden has taken from the left wing of his social gathering, which has assailed him for, in its view, supporting Israel an excessive amount of. Israel’s navy marketing campaign has killed 1000’s of civilians in Gaza even as it has targeted on destroying Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

The launch of Avigail gave Mr. Biden a small however emotionally highly effective victory amid all the tumult in the area. Taken hostage after her mother and father have been gunned down in entrance of her, Avigail spent seven weeks in captivity and turned 4 on Friday in the fingers of Hamas. Her case generated waves of worldwide concern and condemnation.

“She’s been through a terrible trauma,” Mr. Biden mentioned. “What she endured is unthinkable.”

But he reveled in her launch. “Thank God she’s home,” he mentioned. “I wish I was there to hold her.”

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