Biden says Netanyahu is ‘hurting Israel’ with high death toll in Gaza

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Joe Biden has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “hurting Israel” through his administration’s treatment of Palestinians, but added the US would not set a “red line” limiting his actions against Hamas.

The US president also said in an interview with MSNBC that he would not “give up” on the possibility of a ceasefire ahead of Ramadan, which begins tomorrow. The CIA’s director, William Burns, was still in the region, he said.

The president said the prime minister had the “right to defend Israel and a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost”.

“In my view he is hurting Israel, more than helping Israel,” Biden said, referring to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, reiterating that he wanted “to see a ceasefire”.

Asked what his “red line” with the Israeli prime minister would be, Biden said: “The defence of Israel is still critical. So there’s no red line [where] I’m going to cut off all weapons so they don’t have the Iron Dome to protect them.”

However, the US president suggested that Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah, the last remaining population centre in southern Gaza that the Israel Defense Forces have yet to occupy, would further strain relations between Washington and the war cabinet.

He also added that “they cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead as a consequence of going after [Hamas]” and reiterated his calls for a ceasefire.

Israel’s response to Hamas’s invasion on October 7, when 1,200 Israelis were killed, has led to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and sparked increasing tensions between the Middle Eastern country and the US and Europe.

Biden confirmed in this week’s State of the Union address that the administration would build a temporary port in Gaza to provide humanitarian aid after Israel restricted deliveries of food, water, medicine and other assistance to Gaza’s 2.3mn population.

Vice-president Kamala Harris has described the conditions in Gaza as “inhumane”.

Israel’s treatment of Palestinian refugees has been the source of increasing frustration between the US president and Netanyahu. It has also led to criticism of the Biden administration, including from some Democratic voters. In the swing state of Michigan, 100,000 Democrats voted “uncommitted” in the party’s recent primary as a protest against US support for Israel.

Biden said he did not “blame voters for being upset”, adding: “That’s why I’m doing everything I can to try to stop it.”

The US president also reiterated the terms under which a ceasefire deal could take place, saying that he wanted to see “a major exchange of prisoners for a six-week period”, and that there should be “nothing happening during Ramadan”.

 

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