A full ceasefire in Gaza would only help Hamas as Israel wages an air campaign against the militant group, but humanitarian “pauses” should be considered to let vital aid in, the White House said Tuesday.
The comments came as President Joe Biden said aid deliveries to the Palestinian enclave, under Israeli bombardment since the deadly Hamas attacks of October 7, were “not fast enough.”
“A ceasefire right now really only benefits Hamas,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.
Thousands of people have been killed on both sides since Hamas militants stormed across the border, executing civilians and seizing hostages, with Israel retaliating with relentless strikes on the Gaza Strip.
UN chief Antonio Guterres earlier Tuesday urged an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as European Union leaders were considering a call for a pause in the fighting.
Kirby said that while Washington opposed a full ceasefire, stoppages in the fighting to facilitate the delivery of aid was “something that ought to be considered.”
“We want to see all measure of protection for civilians and pauses in an operation is a tool and a tactic that can do that for temporary periods of time,” he said.
“It’s not the same as saying a ceasefire.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier asked the UN Security Council to support a new US-led resolution on the conflict that would back “humanitarian pauses” to let in aid but not a full ceasefire.
Biden said Monday that “talk” about any ceasefire could only start once all of the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas in the attack were released.
Kirby meanwhile warned that while the United States had urged Israel to minimize civilian casualties, some were inevitable.
“This is war. It is combat. It is bloody, ugly and it’s going to be messy and innocent civilians are going to be hurt going forward,” Kirby said.
“I wish I could tell you something different and wish that there wasn’t going to happen, but it is going to happen. And that doesn’t make it right, doesn’t make it dismissible.”
Israel was left stunned and furious by the bloody attack on southern communities in which it says Hamas killed more than 1,400 people and took the hostages, including some Americans.
Israel has responded with heavy air and artillery strikes that have killed 5,791 in Gaza, according to the Hamas-ruled health ministry, and plunged the Palestinian territory into a dire humanitarian crisis.