Biden Sharpens Criticism of Israel, Calling Gaza Response ‘Over the Top’

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“There are a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying,” the president said in a session with reporters. “And it’s got to stop.”

President Biden speaking and gesturing behind a lectern, with books and a portrait behind him in the White House.
“I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage cease-fire,” President Biden said while meeting with the press on Thursday night at the White House.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Peter Baker

President Biden sharply escalated his criticism of Israel’s approach to the war against Hamas on Thursday, calling military operations in Gaza “over the top” and saying that the suffering of innocent people has “got to stop.”

Mr. Biden, who has strongly supported Israel’s right to retaliate for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas that killed an estimated 1,200 people, exhibited growing impatience with the scale and duration of Israel’s response during a nighttime meeting with reporters at the White House.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been over the top,” Mr. Biden said in response to questions at the end of the rowdy session, meant to address a special counsel report on his handling of classified documents. “I’ve been pushing really hard, really hard, to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza,” he added. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving. There are a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying. And it’s got to stop.”

But even as he offered a sharp assessment of the latest events in the Middle East, he made the kind of mistake that his staff had hoped he would avoid, given questions about his age and memory, by confusing the presidents of Egypt and Mexico.

“I think that, as you know, initially the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in,” he said, referring to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, not Mexico. “I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate. I talked to Bibi to open the gate on the Israeli side.”

Mr. Biden’s comments revealed his increasing frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, known by his nickname Bibi, making public what has been clear in private for weeks. Mr. Biden has pressed the Israeli leader to take greater care to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, where more than 27,000 people have been killed, according to health authorities in the strip run by Hamas, and to consider creation of a Palestinian state once the war is over.


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