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President Biden Hosts King Abdullah II: Talks Focus on Hostage Release and Israeli Military Concerns

President Joe Biden is set to meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Washington on Monday, marking their first encounter since three American troops lost their lives in a drone strike on a U.S. base in Jordan last month. Biden attributed the casualties to Iran-backed militias, marking the first U.S. fatalities after months of similar strikes by these groups in the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The meeting is expected to address ongoing efforts to free hostages held in Gaza and growing apprehension over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah. Biden and his team are actively working to negotiate a pause in Israel’s conflict with Hamas, aiming to provide humanitarian aid to the region and secure the release of hostages. The administration faces criticism from Arab-Americans for its continued support of Israel despite escalating casualties in Gaza.

A potential deal for a ceasefire seemed imminent, with a senior U.S. administration official revealing that a framework was essentially in place after weeks of diplomacy. The deal could involve the release of remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a cessation of hostilities. Although acknowledged that gaps remain, the official did not specify.

Israeli military pressure on Hamas in Khan Younis has reportedly brought the militant group closer to accepting an agreement. In a Sunday call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden expressed opposition to the expansion of Israeli military operations into Rafah under current conditions while over 1.3 million people are sheltering there.

Biden’s language on a potential operation in Rafah was notably forceful. He sought “urgent and specific” steps to strengthen humanitarian aid, emphasizing that Israel should not contemplate an operation in Rafah without safeguarding the civilian population.

Jordan and other Arab states have criticized Israel’s actions and refrained from public support for long-term planning, insisting on a ceasefire since mid-October due to escalating civilian casualties. Biden, initially planning to visit Jordan in October, had to cancel the trip after the Hamas attack. Subsequently, his administration engaged in repeated trips to the region to address the ongoing crisis.

Source: AP News

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