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Biden and king of Jordan discuss hostage release efforts at White House meeting

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President Joe Biden met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House on Monday as the administration continues talks on a possible hostage release deal in the Israel-Hamas war and has criticized Israel’s planned ground assault on the Gaza city of Rafah.

The two leaders, joined by senior foreign policy staff members, discussed the ongoing situation in Gaza and efforts to release hostages that Biden said he has discussed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders in Egypt and Qatar “to push this forward.” He said that effort would include a six-week pause in fighting.

“We don’t know how many are still alive. The anguish that their families are enduring, week after week, month after month is unimaginable. And it’s a top priority for the United States to bring them home,” Biden said.

The two leaders also discussed bolstering humanitarian aid to Gaza and efforts to bring “enduring peace” based on a two-state solution, Biden said.

“I made clear the United States shares the goal of seeing Hamas defeated and ensuring long-term security for Israel and its people,” he added.

Abdullah, who spoke after Biden, warned about Palestinians being displaced beyond the borders of Gaza and the West Bank, while urging a two-state solution.

“We must — together, along with Arab partners and the international community — step up efforts to reach a cease-fire in Gaza and immediately start working to create a political horizon that leads to a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of a two-state solution,” Abdullah said.

The meeting was their first since three American soldiers were killed in a drone strike at a base in northeast Jordan last month. The U.S. has attributed the strike to militant groups being supported by Iran, and the president and first lady Jill Biden attended the transfer of the slain soldiers at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, this month.

The administration is engaged in talks on a possible hostage release deal, which includes Biden sending CIA Director William Burns to Egypt on Tuesday. Intelligence chiefs from the U.S., Israel and Egypt and Qatar’s prime minister have negotiated a possible framework that would include a six-week pause in the fighting, the exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, and a plan for humanitarian assistance to reach Gaza.

U.S. officials said they believe there has been major progress made on a hostage release deal that could come as soon as this week, a senior administration official told reporters Sunday after Biden spoke with Netanyahu.

“It’s pretty much there,” the official said on the call with reporters, stressing that there are still “some significant issues that have to close.”

The official said Biden and Netanyahu spent two-thirds of their call Sunday discussing the hostage negotiations. Biden expressed concerns over Israel’s military operation in Rafah because a large number of civilians had been directed there earlier in the war, the official said. Biden and Netanyahu had a “pretty detailed back-and-forth on that,” the official said.

While privately expressing frustration with Netanyahu’s military approach, Biden has continued to show unequivocal support for Israel, NBC News has reported.

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