Tuesday, March 5

Biden steps up criticism of Israel, calling Gaza response ‘overblown’: Latest News

President Biden sharply intensified his criticism of Israel’s approach to the war against Hamas on Thursday, calling military operations in Gaza “overblown” and saying the suffering of innocents “must end.”

Mr. Biden, who has strongly supported Israel’s right to retaliate for the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack that killed about 1,200 people, has shown growing impatience with the scale and duration of the response Israeli during a late-night meeting with journalists at the White House.

“It is my view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been overblown,” Mr. Biden said in response to questions at the end of the eventful session. to approach a special prosecutor’s report on his handling of classified documents. “I worked very hard, very hard, to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza,” he added. “There are many innocent people dying of hunger. There are many innocent people who are in trouble and dying. And it must stop. »

But even as he gave an accurate account of the latest events in the Middle East, he made the kind of mistake his team hoped to avoid, given questions about his age and memory, by confusing the Egyptian and Mexican presidents. .

“I think that, as you know, initially the president of Mexico, Sissi, did not want to open the door to allow the entry of humanitarian materials,” he said, referring to Abdel Fattah el- Sisi, the Egyptian president. not Mexico. “I talked to him. I convinced him to open the door. “I talked to Bibi to open the door on the Israeli side.”

Mr. Biden’s comments revealed his growing frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known by his nickname Bibi, for making public what had been privately clear for weeks. Mr. Biden pressed the Israeli leader to be more careful to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, where more than 27,000 people have been killed, according to health authorities in the Hamas-controlled strip, and to consider the creation of a Palestinian state once the war is over. is finished.

Mr Biden has come under enormous pressure from the progressive wing of his own party to reign in Mr Netanyahu, with protesters now regularly disrupting the president’s events and calling him names such as “Genocide Joe”. At the same time, Mr. Netanyahu, criticized for failing to prevent the October 7 attack, sought to hold on to his right-wing coalition by opposing Mr. Biden’s pleas for a so-called solution to two states.

Mr. Netanyahu has appeared in recent days to rebuff efforts by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to broker a deal with Hamas to secure the release of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas in exchange for a long break in the fighting. Hamas has made “ridiculous demands” that, if met, “would only invite another massacre,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Wednesday shortly after his meeting with Mr. Blinken.

In the four months since the Hamas attack, Mr. Biden has sought to take a cautious line, emphasizing his unwavering support for Israel and shared outrage over the killings of innocent Israelis, while increasingly advising more restraint from Mr. Netanyahu. At one point he complained about “indiscriminate” bombing of Israel, but generally he has moderated his views in public, sometimes leaving it to other members of his administration to speak out. more critically.

The president had no plans to address the situation Thursday evening and was leaving the White House Diplomatic Reception Room after his statement on the special adviser’s report when a reporter’s question prompted him to return to the audience.

A crowd waiting for food in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Mr. Biden said he was trying to get more aid to Palestinians in Gaza.Credit…Hatem Ali/Associated Press

I cited his efforts to deliver more humanitarian aid to Gaza, where much of the population has been displaced and is in desperate need of basic necessities.

“I am pressing very hard now to end this hostage-related ceasefire,” he said. “I have worked tirelessly on this agreement,” he added, because it could “lead to a lasting pause in the ongoing fighting and actions in the Gaza Strip. Because I think if we can get a deadline for this – the original deadline, I think we would be able to extend it in order to increase the chances that the fighting in Gaza will change. »

He also said he believed Hamas could have escalated its attack on October 7 to disrupt U.S. efforts to establish normal diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, a project that many believe would have transformed the region. but could have undermined the urgency of the Palestinian cause. .

“I have no proof of what I am about to say,” Mr. Biden said, “but it is not unreasonable to suspect that Hamas understood what was going to happen and wanted to stop it. before this happens. »

Victoria Kim contributed reporting from Seoul.