Photo Credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90
Aid Packages were drooped in northern Gaza, March 10, 2024.

The Biden administration is insisting Israel allow a controlled return of civilians displaced during the six-month-old war to the northern part of Gaza. This issue remains a significant point of discussion in the ongoing cease-fire negotiations and talks concerning hostages, officials from the United States, Israel, and Egypt told The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, Haaretz reported on Friday that rich Gaza merchants were the first to flee for their lives from the Strip, and are safely running their businesses from Cairo, Egypt. Back in Gaza, they are known as “the new Jews.” The cost of crossing from hell to relative safety is around $10,000, depending on the Egyptian soldier who takes pity on you at the border. That too should be filed under “the new Jews.”


Arab mediators participating in the negotiations told the WSJ that Israel is willing to allow a daily return of 2,000 individuals to the northern region, primarily women and children, starting two weeks following the start of a ceasefire and the phased release of Israeli hostages. Israel finds acceptable a proposal that would enable a maximum of 60,000 civilians to return, with the notable exclusion of men aged 18 to 50.

However, these conditions have not been endorsed by Hamas, which insists on the removal of checkpoints and requires that returning families to the north remain unified, to prevent Israel from denying entry to adult males.

In their long phone conversation last Thursday, President Joe Biden demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address the matter of allowing Gazans to return to the north. Additionally, he insisted on an immediate cease-fire and for Netanyahu to authorize his negotiators to pursue a resolution, US officials told the WJS.

On Friday, a letter addressed to Biden and signed by 40 House Democrats, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urged the administration to refrain from transferring offensive arms to Israel until a comprehensive investigation into the deaths of the aid workers is conducted and those accountable are held responsible. Over the weekend, an IDF investigation was concluded and high-ranking commanders have been reprimanded and dismissed.


But at this point, the Netanyahu government is struggling to return to the agenda an item that until recently was on an even par with the demand for a ceasefire and enhancing humanitarian aid – the return of the hostages.

This change in priorities was evident in the White House statement last Thursday:

We welcome the steps announced by the Israeli government tonight at the President’s request following his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu. These steps, including a commitment to open the Ashdod port for the direct delivery of assistance into Gaza, to open the Erez crossing for a new route for assistance to reach north Gaza, and to significantly increase deliveries from Jordan directly into Gaza, must now be fully and rapidly implemented.

As the President said today on the call, US policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these and other steps, including steps to protect innocent civilians and the safety of aid workers. We are prepared to work in full coordination with the Government of Israel, the Governments of Jordan and Egypt, the United Nations, and humanitarian organizations, to ensure that these important steps are implemented and result in a significant increase in humanitarian assistance reaching civilians in dire need throughout Gaza over the coming days and weeks.

Not one word about the fate of 134 Israeli hostages in the hands of Hamas.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken clarified this point in Brussels last Friday, when he said, “What we’re looking to see in the days and weeks ahead is prioritization, surging humanitarian assistance, sustaining it and getting it to people who need it, making sure that those who are providing it are safe and secure, and maximizing every effort to protect civilians – those who are caught in this crossfire of Hamas’ making. We just can’t have so many people caught in that crossfire, killed, injured going forward.”

Nothing about releasing the hostages as one of the priorities.


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