Biden Says Israel’s Military Response in Gaza ‘Over the Top’


President Joe Biden says he is “pushing very hard” to secure a temporary ceasefire.

President Joe Biden has called Israel’s response in Gaza “over the top” and said he had pushed for a temporary ceasefire in the conflict to allow the release of hostages held by Hamas.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” President Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

President Biden said that he has been working to increase humanitarian assistance into Gaza. “A lot of innocent people are starving. A lot of innocent people are in trouble and dying. And it’s got to stop,” he said.

During the press conference, President Biden appeared to have mistakenly referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as Mexico’s president.

“Initially, the President of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate,” he said.

His remarks came as the Democratic president has come under increasing domestic pressure to press Israel to stop fighting.

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Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack killed 1,200 people in Israel. Hamas also took about 240 hostages, which it now used as bargaining chips in negotiations.

Hamas-run health ministry said the death toll in Gaza has climbed to more than 27,500, with thousands more believed to be buried under rubble. A temporary truce in November resulted in the release of more than 100 hostages, but it only lasted for a week.

President Biden said he has been “pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire” in Gaza, adding that he believes the proposal will extend to “a sustained pause in the fighting.”

“I’ve been working tirelessly in this deal,” the president remarked.

“And because I think if we could get the delay for that, the initial delay, I think that we would be able to extend that so that we could increase the prospect that this fighting in Gaza changes,” he added.

Saudi Arabia has told the United States that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem and Israeli “aggression” on the Gaza Strip stops, the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan. 7, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan. 7, 2024. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

On Thursday, Israeli forces bombed areas in the southern border city of Rafah where more than half of Gaza’s population is sheltering, as diplomats sought to salvage ceasefire talks after the Israeli leader rejected a Hamas proposal.

During a Feb. 6 news conference held shortly after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Mr. Netanyahu said it’s only a “matter of months” before Israel achieves its military goals—that is, to eradicate all of Hamas’s fighting forces in Gaza and destroy the entire underground tunnel network.

“There is no other solution but a complete and final victory,” he told reporters. “If Hamas will survive in Gaza, it’s only a question of time until the next massacre.”

When it comes to ceasefire talks, Mr. Netanyahu dismissed demands raised by Hamas as “bizarre,” saying that negotiation with the group that rules Gaza is “not going anywhere.” Negotiations are continuing, with the governments of Qatar and Egypt acting as mediators

Bill Pan and Reuters contributed to this report.


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