WASHINGTON – President Biden warned Israel on Monday not to try to clear the last pockets of Hamas control in Gaza, saying Israel has already killed “too many” Palestinian civilians and that new safeguards are needed.
Biden, speaking alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah II during the Middle East leader’s visit to the White House, escalated his criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — even as aides denied the surge was driven by polls showing that the president is at risk of swing-state losses in November. by angering Muslim and Arab voters.
“The major military operation in Rafah cannot proceed without a credible plan – a credible plan – to ensure the safety and support of more than 1 million people sheltering it,” Biden, 81, said, referring to Israel’s upcoming ground invasion of the city in southern Gaza. .
“Many people there are displaced – displaced several times, fleeing violence in the north. And now they are crammed into Rafah, exposed and vulnerable. They must be protected. And we have also made it clear from the beginning that we are against any forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza,” the president said.
Biden has faced major protests, including outside the White House, and persistent bickering during public appearances in which he was labeled “Genocide Joe” after presenting himself early in the war as a staunch defender of Israel and 14 had requested $.3 billion in military aid from Congress.
Biden noted Monday that Hamas terrorists started the war with an Oct. 7 surprise attack that killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 others, but added that “over the past four months, as the war raged, Palestinian people have also suffered unimaginable pain and loss.
“Too many, too many of the more than 27,000 Palestinians killed in this conflict were innocent civilians and children, including thousands of children,” Biden said.
The president appeared to quote a somewhat outdated figure from the Hamas-led Health Ministry in Gaza, which counted more than 28,000 dead on Monday.
Earlier in the war, Biden rejected the Hamas ministry’s claim that 5,000 people had been killed in the first 18 days of fighting – saying on October 25: “I have no idea that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people have died. I have no confidence in the numbers the Palestinians are using.”
Abdullah also urged both sides on Monday to end the war.
“We must – together, together with Arab partners and the international community – step up efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and immediately begin working to create a political horizon leading to a just and comprehensive peace based on a two-pronged policy: state solution,” the king said.
Biden said Monday that he is also concerned about living standards in Gaza.
“Hundreds of thousands do not have access to food, water and other basic services. Many families have lost not one, but many relatives and cannot mourn them or even bury them because it is not safe to do so. It’s heartbreaking,” Biden said, also hailing Abdullah, a pilot, for participating in relief flights.
“Every innocent life in Gaza is a tragedy. Just as every innocent life lost in Israel is also a tragedy,” Biden said.
The US leader said he hopes for a six-week pause in fighting as part of a hostage deal.
Biden has gradually increased his criticism of Netanyahu as opinion polls point to problems in the US election.
The president said Thursday that Israel’s response in Gaza had been “overblown” — after officials leaked to the press that Biden had privately called Netanyahu a “f–king bad guy.” In an additional leak, three sources told NBC for a Monday report that Biden had called Netanyahu an “a-hole” at least three times.