Biden Rebukes Netanyahu Over Civilian Deaths but Reaffirms Support

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Biden Rebukes Netanyahu Over Civilian Deaths but Reaffirms Support


President Biden has remained steadfast in his support of Israel, but has criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza.Credit…Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

President Biden rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Saturday over the rising civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip, even as he reaffirmed American support for a longtime ally.

“He has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Netanyahu in an interview with MSNBC.

“In my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Mr. Biden said, appearing to refer to Mr. Netanyahu’s military strategy. “It’s contrary to what Israel stands for, and I think it’s a big mistake. So I want to see a cease-fire.”

Asked by the interviewer, Jonathan Capehart, if he had a “red line” that Mr. Netanyahu should not cross, like a ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, Mr. Biden offered a muddled response but said that “the defense of Israel is still critical.”

“He cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead as a consequence” of his pursuit of Hamas, the president said, referring to Mr. Netanyahu.

“There’s other ways to deal, to get to, to deal with the trauma caused by Hamas,” he added.

Mr. Biden did not offer details. The Gazan health ministry has said that more than 31,000 people have been killed in the enclave since Israel began the war in response to the Oct. 7 attacks launched by Hamas.

But the president’s comments once again highlighted the delicate position the United States has found itself in: arming Israel while at the same time providing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Mr. Biden has been more forceful in recent days about the plight of civilians in Gaza, urging Mr. Netanyahu not to go ahead with his stated plans to launch a major ground offensive in Rafah without a plan to protect the civilians sheltering there. More than a million Gazans have sought refuge in the city, many of whom were displaced by Israeli military orders to move into so-called safe zones.

In recent days, United Nations officials have warned that the enclave is close to famine. At least 25 people have died there from malnutrition and dehydration, Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra, a spokesman for the health ministry, said in a statement on Saturday.

Under Mr. Biden’s direction, U.S. military cargo planes have in recent days dropped food, water and other aid into Gaza a handful of times. Mr. Biden is expanding that effort with a plan to build a floating pier off the coast of Gaza to deliver more supplies to the enclave.

But American officials have acknowledged that dropping aid by air and building a pier will not be as effective as delivering supplies by land, an option that Israel has largely blocked.

In the MSNBC interview, Mr. Biden said that he remained hopeful that the United States could help broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, with the holy month of Ramadan approaching this week.

“I think it’s always possible,” Mr. Biden said.



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