In the midst of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, President Joe Biden asserted on Wednesday that Israel has the right to respond to Hamas attacks but emphasized the necessity of doing “everything possible” to safeguard civilians. Speaking at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Biden made it clear that he had not demanded Israel delay a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.
“Israel has the right, and I would add the responsibility, to respond to the massacre of its people,” stated Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House. He accused Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, of using Palestinian civilians as shields while Israel conducts airstrikes, cautioning Israel to adhere to the “laws of war.”
“It is hard, but Israel must do everything it can to protect innocent civilians,” affirmed the US President.
Biden also condemned attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, urging an immediate halt to such actions. He described these incidents as “adding fuel to the fire,” emphasizing that these attacks occur in places that rightfully belong to the Palestinians.
The conflict began on October 7 when Hamas militants crossed the border, resulting in the deaths of 1,400 people, predominantly civilians, and the abduction of 222 others, according to Israeli authorities. In retaliation, Israel has been bombarding Gaza, causing the death of over 6,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, as per Gaza’s Health Ministry under Hamas.
Biden expressed doubts about the civilian casualty figures presented by the Palestinians, acknowledging the unfortunate reality of innocent lives lost during wartime. While reports surfaced claiming Biden pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone a ground incursion until the release of hostages held by Hamas, Biden denied making any such demand, stating that the decision ultimately rests with Israel.