February 24, 2024

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Biden: Israeli military behavior in Gaza was “exaggerated”

President Biden said Thursday that Israel's military campaign in Gaza was “over the top” in his harshest rebuke yet, and said he hoped current negotiations over the release of hostages in exchange for a long-term truce would lay the groundwork for a change in course. From the war.

Biden said, “The behavior of the response in the Gaza Strip was over the top.” “I'm pushing hard right now to get the hostage ceasefire dealt with. I've been working tirelessly on this deal… because I think if we can get the delay, the initial delay — I think we'll be able to extend that so we can increase the likelihood that this fighting will change.” in Gaza”.

Biden, who declined to speak in detail about the suffering in Gaza, spoke in the most profound terms yet about the desperation in the Strip.

“I have been pushing hard to get humanitarian aid to Gaza. Too many innocent people are starving. Too many innocent people are in trouble and dying and it has to stop,” Biden said.

The comments represent a stunning reversal for Biden, who has an emotional attachment to Israel and has largely refused to criticize the country even as anger grows among left-leaning parts of the Democratic base over the war in Gaza and its massive civilian toll. Israeli airstrikes and strikes over the past four months have killed more than 27,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, and created a humanitarian catastrophe in the densely populated enclave that is home to more than two million people.

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The Israeli military campaign was in response to an attack by Hamas militants on October 7, in which they stormed the Israeli border fence with Gaza and killed 1,200 Israelis, many of them civilians, and took about 250 others hostage. Biden twice circumvented Congress to send hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to Israel, a move that angered some Democrats in the Senate.

The president has resisted pressure to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, which opinion polls show a majority of Democratic voters support. But his unwavering support for Israel cost him politically, as young voters, people of color, Arab Americans and Muslims sharply rejected his handling of the war. However, Congress is debating a foreign aid bill that includes $14 billion in aid to Israel, which passed a key threshold in the Senate on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, a group of senior political advisers met I traveled to Michigan, Which has a large Arab-American and Muslim population, to meet with community members and elected officials to try to garner support. The state plays a crucial role in Biden's path to winning a second term, but the president faces serious problems there, especially as many Arab-American and Muslim voters are mobilizing to ensure that members of their community do not support Biden in November.

Biden and his aides have grown increasingly angry with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly ignored American calls to limit civilian casualties, end military operations in Gaza and allow more aid into the Strip, where hundreds of thousands of residents are at risk of starvation. And illness.

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In recent weeks, Netanyahu has publicly insulted Biden despite hundreds of millions of dollars in arms transfers and unwavering support, even as global condemnation mounts. Netanyahu has become increasingly defiant about the prospect of a two-state solution — which Biden has said should follow the end of the war — and this week rejected a deal that would see some Israeli hostages released in exchange for a long-term pause in fighting while Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the region.

Netanyahu also angered American officials when he pledged to continue the Israeli military campaign in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where more than a million Palestinians fled for safety under Israeli orders. White House spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that any Israeli operation in Rafah under the current circumstances “would be a disaster for these people and we will not support it.”

Biden on Thursday also issued a national security memorandum calling on the State Department to obtain written assurances from countries receiving US weapons that they will adhere to current US standards. These include adherence to international law and that recipients will facilitate — and will not “arbitrarily deny, restrict, or obstruct” — the transfer of U.S. humanitarian assistance.

This memorandum came in response to growing criticism from prominent Democrats regarding the Israeli military campaign and whether it adheres to international law despite receiving American weapons and billions of dollars in aid.

Speaking about his efforts to deliver aid to Gaza, Biden detailed how he pressured Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, something El-Sisi initially refused to do for fear that Israel would forcibly displace Palestinians to Gaza. dullness. But Biden mistakenly referred to Sisi as “the president of Mexico.”

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Biden's statements came at the end of a hastily arranged media conference in which the president addressed the findings of the special counsel's report released on Thursday regarding his handling of classified documents. The report cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing, but also included language from special counsel Robert K. Hoare questions his memory and mental ability.