The Biden administration has advised Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza, hoping to buy time for hostage negotiations and to allow more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians in the sealed-off enclave, according to several U.S. officials.
American officials also want more time to prepare for attacks on U.S. interests in the region from Iran-backed groups, which officials said are likely to intensify once Israel moves its forces fully into Gaza.
The administration is not making a demand of Israel and still supports the ground invasion and Israel’s goal of eradicating Hamas, the group controlling Gaza that killed about 1,400 people in terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, the officials said.
But fast-moving events since Hamas released two American women on Friday have spurred the administration to more urgently suggest that the Israelis allow time to negotiate the release of 212 other hostages, the officials said.
President Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon to discuss the latest developments, the White House said. Mr. Biden also spoke to the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Britain.
Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu agreed that after the entry of the first two convoys of humanitarian aid into Gaza on Saturday, there “will now be continued flow of this critical assistance,” a White House summary of the call said. The leaders also “discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the remaining hostages taken by Hamas — including U.S. citizens — and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza who wish to depart,” the White House said.
Two U.S. officials said the advice to the Israelis to hold off on the land war was being conveyed through Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III because the Pentagon is helping advise Israel on military actions, including the ground invasion.
Mr. Austin has had near daily calls with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, to discuss operational matters, American arms shipments to Israel and U.S. military deployments to the region. He has also talked about recovering the hostages as a priority, one U.S. official said. [Continue reading…]