The White House urged Hamas terrorists in Gaza to release women, elderly and wounded hostages and accept a temporary ceasefire.

Activists calling for the government to find a solution to have the hostages released, in Tel Aviv, March 12, 2024
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Hamas and Israel must “stay at the table,” United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday while stressing that a deal was still possible for the release of 40 hostages in exchange for a six-week pause to the fighting.

“We will stay at it. We are determined to try to generate a ceasefire with the hostages coming out and then build on it for something more enduring,” Sullivan said.

“We have encouraged Israel to stay at the table, stay engaged because we believe there still is scope for this deal to get done” even though the Ramadan period has begun, Sullivan said.

“As we press particularly on our friends in Israel to do their part, to help deliver this ceasefire fire, it is incumbent for voices around the world to call on Hamas to step up to do their part to release innocent women, wounded and elderly hostages as a first step and then we can move from there,” he said.

Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, speaks in a pre-recorded message shown on a screen during a press event for Al Quds International Institution in Beirut, Lebanon February 28, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR/FILE PHOTO)

Sullivan said all the top US officials are engaged in making this happen, explaining that US President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Middle East envoy Brett McGurk, and CIA Director William Burns have all been heavily involved in this effort.

On Tuesday night, Al Arabiya reported that Hamas could agree to a modified US proposal for a second hostage deal and planned to send a delegation to Cairo to finalize the arrangement in the coming days.

Sullivan said he had not heard that Hamas was amenable to a deal.

“If there is an offer from Hamas to start releasing prisoners as part of a ceasefire, that would be welcome news,” he said.

He charged that a “ceasefire is on the table today,” but the hang-up was Hamas, which could make a deal happen if it would just “simply release women, children and elderly.”

Sullivan stressed that the “fact that they will not do so says a lot to me about Hamas’s [lack of] regard for innocent Palestinian civilians.” As the US pushed for a deal, it also increased its efforts to bring humanitarian assistance into Gaza.

Hamas denied that it had agreed to a new proposal, stating early Wednesday morning that “there is no truth to the news published by Al-Arabiya attributed to a ‘senior Hamas source’ about the movement receiving an international offer for an extended ceasefire in Gaza, the gradual return of the displaced, or a delegation heading to Cairo to discuss the details.”

“We ask that the media ensure accuracy and credibility in reporting the news, and not manipulate the feelings of our people who are being subjected to a Zionist aggression and a Nazi war of extermination,” added the terrorist movement.

US is to build a temporary pier for humanitarian aid in Gaza

Three US Army vessels departed to the Gaza coast on Tuesday to begin the process of building a temporary pier to ramp up humanitarian assistance, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday afternoon. The Pentagon has not yet said specifically where the pier will be established.

The ships are “carrying the equipment and supplies needed to support this mission. Once in theater, these vessels and their crews will establish a roll-on-roll-off pier capability that allows ship-to-shore humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen Pat Ryder said during a news briefing.

Ryder indicated that the Pentagon’s only efforts in the region will be assisting in the delivery of humanitarian aid.The United Nations used a new land route on Tuesday to deliver food to northern Gaza for the first time in three weeks.

Jamie McGoldrick, UN aid coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told Reuters that a World Food Programme (WFP) convoy had used an Israeli military road that runs alongside the Gaza border fence to reach the enclave’s north.WFP spokesperson Shaza Moghraby said enough food for 25,000 people was delivered to Gaza City in the early hours of Tuesday. It was WFP’s first delivery to the north since Feb. 20 and “proves that moving food by road is possible.”

“We are hoping to scale up, and we need regular and consistent access, especially with people in northern Gaza on the brink of famine,” said Moghraby. We need entry points directly to the north.”

The UN has warned that at least 576,000 people in Gaza – one-quarter of the population – are on the brink of famine.

Sullivan said the US was working with Israel to increase the amount of aid “by ground both through Kerem Shalom and through a new crossing, where we had the first trucks get in last night, and we need to see more where that came from.”

Israel’s military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the WFP convoy’s use of the military road.Limited aid via land has been reaching southern Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt and Kerem Shalom from Israel.

“Life-saving relief for Palestinians in Gaza is coming in trickles – if it comes at all,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday that the UN and aid groups were “working to deliver desperately needed assistance, despite ongoing fighting and Israeli bombardment, as well as insecurity, frequent border closures and access constraints that continue to impede safe and efficient aid operations.”

The UN had been pushing Israel for weeks to allow aid convoys – once inspected in the south – to use the military road along the Gaza border fence road, McGoldrick said last week. The plan was for trucks to cross into Gaza from the Israeli village of Beeri.

The United States, Jordan, and others have conducted airdrops of aid in Gaza, and on Tuesday, a ship carrying 200 tonnes of aid left Cyprus in a pilot project to open a sea corridor to deliver supplies. While UN officials have welcomed new aid routes, they stress there is no substitute for land access.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post