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Biden Admin Sought ‘Quiet’ Diplomatic Approach During Israel-Hamas Conflict, Says US Official

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood delivers a joint statement, in Tripoli, Libya May 18, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood portrayed the Biden administration’s approach to latest conflict between Israel and the Hamas terror group as one of “quiet diplomacy” intended to first “stop the dying,” and emphasized the need to avert another flareup of violence.

“Stop the dying, stabilize the situation, get humanitarian assistance in, and then look for ways that we can actually start putting in place the conditions and parameters to be able to start talking about a two-state again. Because right now that prospect seems pretty far away,” Hood said, characterizing the administration’s posture during the recent hostilities at a Wilson Center panel discussion.

“When you look at this unconditional mutual ceasefire, between Israel and the militants based in Gaza, we think it was a function of the intensive but quiet diplomacy of the United States and our partners since the earliest hours of the conflict,” he said in the Tuesday virtual event.

Hood thanked America’s regional partners, especially Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Jordanian king and the emir of Qatar helping end the 11 days of fighting in May.

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“From the beginning, President Biden was focused, intensely, on ending the conflict as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible,” Hood said. “Because sadly, we know from past experience that every day the conflict continues, more innocent lives would be lost. And we deplore each one of those innocent deaths.”

Commenting on the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hood said that although the ceasefire has held, the “situation remains really fragile.”

“Palestinian militants are launching incendiary balloons and airborne explosive devices from the Gaza Strip. Israel is responding with airstrikes against Hamas sites,” Hood said. “Fortunately, no one on either side has been injured so far, but if this continues, it’s just a matter of time. We want to reduce the likelihood that this level of conflict happens again. So that’s why we think it’s essential to stabilize Gaza through a humanitarian response with partners from the United Nations, Egypt, Qatar and others.”

Hood reiterated US commitment to assist recovery efforts in Gaza in partnership with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in a way that would benefit Palestinians directly but not Hamas.

“We are working through the various actors to ensure that funding to Gaza goes through transparent, legitimate,  and independent channels who distribute directly to the people in need, not through Hamas,” Hood said.

US assistance to Gaza seeks to provide emergency shelter, food relief, health care and mental health care, he said.

“If you’ve ever seen the vetting procedures that we and our partners put in place, it’s like a 60-page memo that I got to sign off on every year,” he added. “We are providing more than $360 million in assistance to the Palestinians. That includes $38 million in new assistance for humanitarian efforts in both Gaza and the West Bank. Of that, $33 million is going to UNRWA to support its operations in both those locations.”

The Biden administration is currently working with Congress to “ensure these resources are available as soon as possible,” according to Hood.

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