Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Gaza food distribution site deaths will complicate peace talks, but agreement possible: Biden

US President Joe Biden has stated that his administration is looking into what happened at a food distribution site in Gaza — where local health officials say more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more injured by Israeli troops— and he admitted the incident is going to complicate negotiations in the region.

“We’re checking that out right now; there are two competing versions of what happened. I don’t have an answer yet,” the president told CNN’s Arlette Saenz at the White House on Thursday.

Asked by Saenz if he worried the deaths would complicate negotiations, he responded: “Oh, I know it will.”

But Biden still expressed optimism that a deal on the hostages and a potential ceasefire could be reached soon.

“Hope springs eternal,” Biden stated, adding, “I was on the telephone with people in the region, I’m still – probably not by Monday, but I’m hopeful.”

A senior Biden administration official said that the incident has made US officials feel even more pressure to help get a hostages-ceasefire agreement across the finish line. The situation “gives even added urgency to the process”, the official told CNN Thursday.

The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza increased the death toll to at least 112 Thursday after Israeli troops opened fire while people awaited food and aid in northern Gaza. The ministry added 760 people were injured. Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour told reporters later Thursday that the death toll had risen as high as 122.

Hamas senior member Izzat Al-Risheq warned that the killing of people collecting aid from trucks in Gaza could lead to the failure of ongoing talks aiming at the release of hostages and a ceasefire.

“Negotiations are not an open process,” he said in a statement published by the Hamas on Telegram.

“We will not allow for the pathway of the negotiations…[to become] a cover for the enemy’s continued crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip,” Al-Risheq added.

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