Biden official argues hostages must be free before ‘significant’ pause in Israel-Hamas war

White House adviser Brett McGurk in a speech Saturday said the hostages taken by Hamas must be free before a “significant pause” can happen in the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group.

“It’s also reasonable to pause the fighting, release the hostages, the women, the children, the toddlers, the babies, all of them and the onus here is on Hamas this is the path,” McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, said in his speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “Simply calling for cease-fire is not a path to peace.”

In his speech at the IISS Manama Dialogue 2023 event, the Biden adviser said releasing the hostages would create a “massive surge” in humanitarian relief.

He added that Hamas had pushed for a bargain earlier in the war where they would release hostages in exchange for fuel and humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip.

“Imagine if … someone took your family members and then told you to get them back, you had to give them X, Y and Z whatever it might be and you are being advice just give them X, Y and Z anyway without any promise that your family members would be released that would be problematic and that’s where we’ve been,” McGurk continued.

“The surge in humanitarian relief, the surge in fuel, the pause in fighting will come with hostages are released,” he said.

President Biden previously said he discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the possibility of “tactical pauses” in Israel’s assault against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Biden administration has been focused on pauses to Israel’s military operation to allow for increased deliveries of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilians in Gaza, promoting the movement of civilians to safer areas and allowing the exit of Americans and other foreign nationals, in addition to the release of hostages, according to officials.

It is estimated that at least 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas after it stormed into Israel on Oct. 7 and killed more than 1,200 people in a brutal surprise attack.

An Israeli airstrike campaign and ground invasion in response to the initial attack has since killed over 11,100 Palestinians, including over 4,600 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Netanyahu has vowed to continue the strikes until all of the hostages are released.

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