MINNEAPOLIS, Nov 1 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden called on Wednesday for a “pause” in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip after a heckler calling for a ceasefire l faced during a fundraiser for his campaign.
Biden was speaking to about 200 people when the heckler shouted, “As your rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire now.”
Biden responded: “I think we need a pause. A pause means giving time to get the prisoners out.”
The White House later clarified that Biden was referring to hostages — not prisoners — held by Hamas after its Oct. 7 attack on Israel in which 1,400 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage.
Israel vowed to wipe out Hamas and responded with bombings on Gaza and a ground offensive in the besieged coastal enclave.
The White House has previously said it supports a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid to flow to Gaza and the release of hostages.
Biden has provided support for Israel — and visited the country last month — but he has shifted his response in recent weeks as the humanitarian situation worsens in Gaza and the civilian death toll rises.
At a congressional hearing Tuesday, two of Biden’s top advisers were interrupted several times by protesters denouncing U.S. officials for supporting what they called “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza.
On Wednesday, Biden’s heckler, who told reporters her name was Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg, was escorted away by security while chanting “ceasefire now.” Biden added that he understood the emotions stirred up by the conflict in the Middle East.
“It’s incredibly complicated for the Israelis. It’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well… I supported a two-state solution, I supported it from the beginning,” he said. “The fact is that Hamas is a terrorist organization. A real terrorist organization.”
Gaza’s health ministry said at least 8,796 Palestinians in the narrow coastal enclave, including 3,648 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes since October 7. The Hamas-led government said at least 195 Palestinians died in Israeli attacks on the Jabalia refugee camp on October 7. Wednesday.
Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Michael Perry
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