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Biden warns Hamas against blocking aid deliveries to Palestinian civilians

President Biden on Thursday warned Hamas against diverting humanitarian shipments to the Gaza Strip, saying its sustained delivery was dependent on goods reaching Palestinian civilians.

“If Hamas does not divert or steal these shipments, we’re going to provide an opening for sustained delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians,” the president said in a rare prime-time address. 

Biden, who returned Thursday from a one-day trip to Israel, said an agreement to begin shipments of humanitarian supplies into besieged Gaza was secured following talks he held with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and after a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Biden had earlier committed $100 million in humanitarian support for Palestinians and spoke to civilian casualties amid the outbreak of war, including an explosion at a hospital in Gaza that was treating patients and housing people seeking shelter, saying Israel was not responsible for an event that has further inflamed the Arab world.

“Like so many others, I’m heartbroken by the tragic loss of Palestinian life including the explosion at the hospital in Gaza, which was not done by the Israelis. We mourn every innocent life lost and can’t ignore the humanity of innocent Palestinians who only want to live in peace and have an opportunity.”

“I also spoke with [President Mahmoud Abbas] of the Palestinian Authority and reiterated that the United States remains committed to the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and to self determination. The actions of Hamas terrorists don’t take that right away.”

The president’s remarks were the first details provided on how the aid shipments would begin, which are reportedly to start Friday. Palestinians in the claustrophobic Gaza Strip are suffering under intense Israeli aerial bombardment that Israel says it is carrying out against Hamas military infrastructure and targeting its leaders. Hamas has controlled the Strip since seizing power in a bloody takeover in 2007. It continues to fire rockets into Israel.     

There’s little place for Palestinian civilians to flee to safety in the densely packed enclave, and shipments of food, fuel and medicine had ceased with the outbreak of war and Egypt’s closing of its Rafah land border crossing. Israel declared war on Hamas after the U.S.-designated terror group launched an unprecedented attack into Israel on Oct. 7 massacring more than 1,400 people and taking nearly 200 people hostage into the Gaza strip.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had earlier said the U.S. was concerned that Hamas would seize or destroy aid entering Gaza or prevent it from reaching civilians, and he said the U.S. would condemn the act and “work to prevent it from happening again.”

Updated 9:53 p.m.

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