WATCH: Biden hails Israel-Hamas ceasefire, sees ‘opportunity’

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden on Thursday hailed the impending ceasefire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, saying he saw a “real opportunity” towards the broader goal of building a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Watch Biden’s remarks in the player above.

Biden credited the Egyptian government with playing a crucial role in negotiating the ceasefire and said he and key White House aides were intensely involved in an “hour by hour” effort to stop the bloodshed.

“I believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy,” Biden said. “My administration will continue our silent and relentless diplomacy in this regard.”

The president spoke shortly after Israel and Hamas announced a ceasefire would come into effect at 2 a.m. on Friday, ending an 11-day war that caused widespread destruction in the Gaza Strip and ended life in much of Israel. The fighting has left at least 227 dead in Gaza and 12 in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal after an overnight meeting of its security cabinet. Hamas quickly followed suit and said it would honor the deal.

The ceasefire was announced a day after Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call that he expected a “significant de-escalation” in the fighting by the end of the day, according to the House. White. But the prime minister immediately returned with a public declaration that he was “determined to continue” the operation in Gaza “until its objective is achieved.”

Hours before the ceasefire agreement was reached, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Israelis had “achieved important military objectives” in their strikes intended to degrade capabilities Hamas military personnel and reiterated that Biden expected the Israelis to start “downsizing” their operations. .

“We believe that the Israelis have achieved important military goals that they set out to protect their people and respond to the thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas,” Psaki said.

Biden, who carefully avoided extensive public comments on Israeli military strikes during the 11-day conflict, faced increasing pressure from fellow Democrats to speak out against Israelis as the death toll rose to Gaza and that tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced by the aerial bombardment.

Throughout the crisis, Biden, in carefully worded statements and brief interactions with reporters, stressed Israel’s right to self-defense. But as the death toll and the suffering of innocent bystanders in Gaza spread, the position became increasingly difficult to maintain with its Democratic caucus and the international community.

On Tuesday, while in Michigan to visit a Ford facility, Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib clashed with Biden on the Detroit airport tarmac and called on him to strongly denounce the Israeli strikes. Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have introduced resolutions to block the sale of $ 735 million in military weapons to Israel that have already been approved by the administration. Biden.

As the outsiders called on Biden to speak more forcefully, Biden and his top aides privately argued to Israeli officials that time was not on their side in the court of public opinion.

Administration officials pointed to Hezbollah’s growing stature in the region after their 34-day war with Israel in 2006 to advocate for limiting the length of military action. Israeli officials retorted that a slightly prolonged campaign to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities was necessary and in their best interests, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Hamas had sought to present its rocket barrages as a defense of Jerusalem. Israeli officials argued in the White House that Hamas’s message lost its resonance as mob violence against Arabs in mixed Israeli towns, including Lod, was corrected.

Biden, in his remarks on Thursday, reiterated that the United States continues to “fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks” by Hamas and other Gaza-based militants.

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