President Joe Biden expressed doubt on Thursday that a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict is just days away, tempering his own prior predictions amid recent diplomatic complications.

Speaking with reporters while visiting an ice cream shop in New York on Monday, the president expressed high hopes for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying, “My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.” By Thursday afternoon, the president’s tone had shifted.

“Hope springs eternal,” the president said on Thursday when asked about his earlier ceasefire prediction. He then added, “Probably not by Monday, but I’m hopeful.”

President Biden discussed the negotiations for the release of Hamas hostages and the overall situation in the Gaza Strip during separate calls with Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Monday.

The president said a recent incident in which dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed during a humanitarian aid delivery in northern Gaza adds a new layer of challenge to any hopes of a ceasefire in the territory.

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered near a roundabout in northern Gaza, anticipating a convoy of trucks carrying supplies to the embattled territory. There were reports of gunfire by Israel Defense Force (IDF) soldiers near the aid site, and hundreds of people being trampled in the chaotic crowd.

Biden Admin Seeking Answers on Gaza Aid Stampede

Around 30 aid trucks neared the Nabulsi roundabout in Gaza City in the predawn hours on Thursday morning. While exactly what happened after that remains unclear, but reports indicate people were trampled, ran over, or struck by gunfire.

In a post on the X social media platform, the IDF said Gaza residents had surrounded the trucks and looted the supplies being delivered.

“As a result of the pushing, trampling and being run over by the trucks, dozens of Gazans were killed and injured,” the IDF statement continued.

Other reports indicated gunfire from IDF soldiers contributed to the casualties. The Wall Street Journal reported some witnesses claimed Israeli forces had opened fire on crowds even before the trucks had arrived.

According to Axios, an IDF official said Israeli forces located near the aid delivery site felt threatened as crowds of Palestinians neared their position. The IDF official reportedly said Israeli soldiers began to fire warning shots as members of the crowd approached within ten meters and then fired at the legs of those who continued to approach. This IDF official said around ten civilians were hit by the Israeli soldiers’ fire, a casualty assessment also shared with The Times of Israel.

NTD News reached out to the IDF seeking further confirmation that Israeli soldiers fired their weapons and further details about the circumstances of the shooting. The IDF did not respond by press time.

Addressing the incident at the Nabulsi roundabout, President Biden acknowledged “competing versions of what happened.” Asked whether he believes the incident complicates the ceasefire negotiations, he said, “I know it will.”

The Gaza Health Ministry, which operates under the auspices of Hamas’ political control of the Gaza Strip, reported around 112 people were killed and more than 700 others were injured in this incident.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority condemned the Thursday incident near the Nabulsi roundabout as a “massacre” resulting from deliberate Israeli gunfire.

The foreign ministries of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia—three regional governments that have weighed in on recent peace efforts—also condemned Israel over the incident at the Nabulsi roundabout.

At a Thursday press briefing, U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the Biden administration has been in touch with the Israeli government, and an investigation of the incident is underway.

“We will be monitoring that investigation closely and pressing for answers,” Mr. Miller said.

Ceasefire Dependent on Hostage Release: White House

Along with the complications brought by the Nabulsi roundabout incident on Thursday morning, ceasefire negotiators are still working on winning the release of more than a hundred people kidnapped in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The war between Israel and Hamas began after Hamas gunmen breached the Gaza-Israel barrier on Oct. 7 and carried out attacks across southern Israel, resulting in more than 1,100 people killed, thousands more injured, and around 250 taken back to Gaza as hostages.

Most of the hostages returned to Israel since Oct. 7 have been freed through prisoner exchanges, with a handful more freed in Israel military operations, and the bodies of others repatriated after being killed in the course of the fighting in the territory.

President Biden reportedly discussed the need for a ceasefire in his calls with Egyptian and Qatari leaders on Thursday. White House readouts for both calls stated, “The leaders underscored that the release of hostages would result in an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks.”

President Biden and his Egyptian counterpart also discussed ways to surge humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip once this temporary ceasefire begins and how to expand the ceasefire into “a prolonged period of calm.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his goals for the war in the Gaza Strip are the return of all hostages and the complete and total defeat of Hamas.

From The Epoch Times

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