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As First US Citizens Leave Gaza, Biden Calls for Humanitarian 'Pause' in Fighting

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JERUSALEM, Israel – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Israel Friday.

His visit comes as Israel's ground campaign moves to encircle Gaza City, and for the first time since the war began, foreign nationals, including Americans, are getting out of Gaza. 

President Biden called Wednesday for a humanitarian "pause" in the conflict.

The State Department is helping U.S. citizens there.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson, announced Wednesday, "In the past 24 hours, we have informed U.S. citizens and family members with whom we are in contact that they will be assigned specific departure dates. We have asked them to continue to monitor email regularly over the next 24 to 72 hours for specific instructions about how to exit." He added, "The situation remains extremely fluid, but this has been an important breakthrough."

The State Department says there are about a thousand American citizens and family members in the Gaza Strip.

Miller said, “We're working nonstop to get Americans out of Gaza as soon as safely as possible. This is the result of intense and urgent American diplomacy with our partners in the region.”

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President Biden was answering a heckler in Minnesota who said, "I need you to call a cease-fire (in the fighting) right now."

Biden responded, "I think we need a pause," and clarified, "a pause means give time to get the prisoners out.”

Many among Biden's base are demanding an immediate halt to the conflict.

Blinken departs for Israel and Jordan on Thursday, as international criticism of Israel builds. Jordan announced it has recalled its ambassador, and some are concerned the U.S. will ask Israel to stop its ground campaign.

On the ground, the Israeli military announced it is at the gates of Gaza City. 

The Israel Defense Forces released a video of soldiers and tanks as operations intensify inside the Gaza Strip. The I.D.F. says dozens of Hamas targets, including "observation posts, anti-tank squads and launchers, vessels, and military outposts" have been destroyed.

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Israeli leaders warn this new phase of the war will be long and difficult.

The I.D.F. also released an audio conversation of Hamas taking fuel for its war machine from a Gaza-based Indonesian hospital.

Turkey and Iran's foreign ministers met Wednesday in a show of support and solidarity. Iran's foreign minister says the region is on the brink.

"Undoubtedly, if the war isn't stopped immediately, the United States of America, the fake regime of Israel and the supporters of the continuation of the war crimes will be directly responsible for the situation in the region getting out of the hands of all parties and the expansion in scope and dimensions of war," said Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

Some 240 Israelis, including American citizens, are still being held hostage by Hamas.

Calev Meyers, founder of the Voice4Freedom Coalition, told CBN News, “Our main goal is just to keep the stories and the faces of the hostages in the hearts and minds of people around the world – continue the international pressure and international momentum as we call together for the unconditional and immediate release of all these innocent people.” 

Recently, a Hamas official in Lebanon, Ghazi Hamad of the Hamas Political Bureau, declared they would repeat the killings of October 7th.

“Israel is a country that has no place on our land.  We must remove that country," Hamad said, "because it constitutes a security, military, and political catastrophe to the Arab and Islamic nation and must be finished. We are not ashamed to say this, with full force.”

He continued, “It is Israel, not us. We are the victims of the occupation. Period. Therefore, nobody should blame us for the things we do. On October 7, October 10, October, 1,000,000 –  everything we do is justified.”  

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, members of Israel's Knesset watched the raw footage from the October 7th massacre. Many left the auditorium overwhelmed and weeping.

 

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