Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday called for an immediate cease-fire in Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, becoming a rare Middle Eastern leader and ally to do so while standing alongside President Biden at the White House since the fighting began in October.
The king’s remarks came just after Biden indicated that the U.S. was working on securing a six-week truce between Israel and Hamas that would allow for the release of hostages and a scale up of humanitarian delivery in the Gaza Strip.
Jordan’s leader, however, went further than the president, pleading for an immediate cease-fire in the enclave and warned against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moving forward with a military operation targeting Hamas in the city of Rafah, putting at risk more than one million Palestinians who are sheltering in the area.
“We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah,” the King said. “It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe. The situation is already unbearable for over one million people who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started. We cannot stand by and let this continue, we need a lasting cease-fire now, this war must end.”
Abdullah said that Jordan is looking to Biden for “leadership… to addressing this conflict,” saying a cease-fire must be followed by efforts at establishing a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, “living side by side with Israel in peace and security, this is our only solution that will guarantee peace and security for the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said.
The king also called for resuming assistance to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, after the U.S. and over a dozen countries halted funding over accusations that 12 of its employees participated in Hamas’s Oct 7 terrorist attack against Israel. Israel also alleges that one in 10 UNRWA employees in Gaza have ties to Hamas.
Abdullah said there is no substitute for the assistance UNRWA provides, including to 2.3 million Palestinians living in Jordan.
“It is imperative that UNRWA continue to receive the support it needs to carry out its mandate,” he said, amid warnings that the agency will have to cease operations in March amid the funding shortfall.
The U.S. views Jordan as a vital partner in promoting stability in the Middle East, which is embroiled in conflict since Hamas’s attack on Israel in October, and Israel’s subsequent war against the designated-terror group in Gaza. Late last month, three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan were killed in an attack by an Iranian-backed militia, launched in an effort to pressure the U.S. to exit the Middle East over its support for Israel.
Abdullah must walk a fine line between upholding the country’s peace treaty with Israel and close ties with the U.S., but addressing the fury of his population, the majority of which are Palestinians, that view Israel and Netanyahu as carrying out a genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.
“Civilians on both sides continue to pay for this protracted conflict with their lives, all attacks against innocent civilians, women and children including those of Oct 7 cannot be accepted by any Muslim as I have previously stressed,” he said. “We must make sure that the horrors of the past few months since Oct. 7 are never repeated or accepted by any human being.”
Biden, who is hosting Abdullah at the White House to mark 75-years of relations between Washington and Amman, did not call for a cease-fire but said the U.S. is working towards a six-week truce. Biden and his administration has been adamant for months that a cease-fire would only benefit Hamas.
Anti-war, pro-Palestine protesters, as a result, have met Biden around the U.S., demanding Israel end its military operation there. The Gaza Health Ministry has estimated that more than 25,000 since the war began in October.
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