President Joe Biden has said for the first time he supports a humanitarian “pause” to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza in order to try and secure the release of more prisoners.
Appearing at a fundraiser in Minneapolis, the president was heckled by a woman who revealed she was a rabbi.
“As a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire right now,” she said.
Mr Biden said: “I think we need a pause. A pause means give time to get the prisoners out.”
He added: “I’m the guy that convinced Bibi to call for a ceasefire to let the prisoners out. I’m the guy that talked to Sisi to convince him to open the door.”
In the days and weeks after the Oct 7 attack by Hamas that killed 1,400 Israelis and saw up to 250 people taken hostage, Mr Biden was steadfast in his support for Israel.
He said Israel had the right to defend itself and said the US would provide additional military aid to the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A week ago, the US quietly changed its policy to say it would support a pause in the fighting in order to get more people released. A handful of prisoners have been released so far.
On Wednesday, 81 severely injured Palestinians were permitted to leave Gaza to Egypt, along with more than 350 foreign passport holders, under a deal arranged by officials from various countries, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Mr Biden’s comments on Wednesday marked the first time he personally had called for a pause.
But he was somewhat misleading when he said Mr Netanyahu supported a ceasefire and that Egypt had opened the Rafah crossing into Gaza.
This week Mr Netanyahu expressly rejected a ceasefire, saying: “The Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war. This is a time for war.”
Also, the crossing at Rafah remains closed to the bulk of Gazans.
Precisely what impact Mr Biden’s comment will have remains to be seen.
“This is incredibly complicated for the Israelis. It’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well,” Mr Biden added.
“I supported a two-state solution, I have from the very beginning. The fact of the matter is that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. A flat-out terrorist organisation.”