The United States is working to negotiate a ceasefire of “at least six weeks” in the Gaza Strip as part of a wider deal that would also involve the release of hostages, President Joe Biden said Monday.

“The United States is working on a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, which would bring (an) immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks,” Biden said at the White House, with Jordanian King Abdullah II at his side.

Biden also said civilians sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, on the Egyptian border, “need to be protected” as Israel considers a ground incursion in the densely crowded area where more than a million Palestinians are trapped.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II held talks with US President Joe Biden at the White House Monday on resolving the Israel-Hamas conflict, as fears grow of an offensive in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Amman is a key player in the region, and the king has been vocal in calling for a permanent ceasefire. Biden has held off from supporting one, arguing that Israel needs time to defeat Hamas.

“I look forward to discussing deepening our strong relationship, and efforts to produce an enduring end to the crisis in Gaza,” Biden said of the meeting with Abdullah on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The White House said Biden and Abdullah would discuss ways to find long-term solutions to the conflict in Gaza, which is increasingly spreading throughout the Middle East.

Asked if Biden would accept King Abdullah’s calls for a ceasefire, National Security Council spokesman Kirby said that the United States had been “very consistent that we do not support a general ceasefire this time.”

The visit comes as weeks of talks involving the United States and regional powers have so far failed to produce a ceasefire and hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

It also comes as Biden takes a harder line with Israel.

Biden told Netanyahu on Sunday that a Rafah advance should not go ahead without a “credible” plan to ensure “the safety” of the around one million people sheltering there, the White House said.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has responded with a relentless bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza that the Palestinian territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says has killed at least 28,340 people, mostly women and children.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP