Biden calls Israel's Gaza response 'over the top'

Criticism comes after US President said in December that Israel was conducting 'indiscriminate bombing' in Palestinian enclave

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Thursday. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden on Thursday levelled some of his most direct criticism at Israel since it invaded the Gaza Strip in October, saying the actions of its military have been “over the top”.

Mr Biden also said he was working “tirelessly” to push for a deal that would lead to a “sustained pause” in the fighting.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” Mr Biden said in remarks from the White House, during which he primarily spoke about the findings of an investigation into his handling of classified documents.

Mr Biden, who is under immense political pressure from progressives and the Arab-American community to bring about a ceasefire in Gaza, said he succeeded in getting Israel and Egypt to allow more aid into the besieged enclave, where health authorities say more than 27,800 people have been killed.

He also said he was “pushing very hard” for a deal that would lead to Hamas releasing its remaining hostages in return for a ceasefire.

“I’ve been working tirelessly in this deal … to lead to sustained pause in the fighting in the actions taking place in the Gaza Strip,” Mr Biden said.

Despite intense US and international efforts to bring about a truce, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to dismiss such talk on Wednesday and vowed his country's military would keep fighting against Hamas to achieve “absolute victory”.

Mr Biden in December said Israel was losing international support due to its “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, but the US has nonetheless continued to back Israel’s offensive after the Hamas attack on October 7. About 1,200 people were killed in the assault by militants, according to Israeli authorities.

The war has become a political albatross for Mr Biden, who frequently faces cries of “Genocide Joe” from protesters at campaign events.

The White House on Thursday said it would not support any plans by Israel for a major military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, because such a move would spell disaster for Palestinian civilians seeking refuge there.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Secretary of State Antony Blinken made US concerns about such operations clear during meetings with Israeli officials. Mr Blinken has completed his fifth tour of the Middle East since the outbreak of the Gaza war, during which he pushed for peace in talks with regional leaders.

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Updated: February 09, 2024, 4:35 AM