Biden Demands Israel Adopt Ways To Protect Palestinians, Quickly Negotiate Cease-Fire With Hamas


U.S. President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that continued U.S. support for Israel’s war with Hamas would be determined by how Israel adopts new measures to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza and humanitarian workers trying to bring food to them. 

Days after Israeli forces unleashed airstrikes that killed seven international aid workers, the White House said Biden emphasized to the Israeli leader in a phone call “that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable.”

It said Biden demanded new steps to protect civilians and “an immediate cease-fire” in the nearly six-month conflict. 

In a readout of the half-hour call, the White House said Biden “made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers. He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.” 

In Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters, “If we don’t see the changes we need to see, there will be changes in our policy.” 

When asked at a White House news conference whether the U.S. would cut off military aid to Israel, national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, “I’m not going to preview decisions that haven’t been made yet, but there are things that need to be done. There are too many civilians being killed.” 

When asked about the timing of any new Israeli measures to protect Palestinian civilians, Kirby said, “We expect that there will be some announcements coming from Israel in the coming hours and days, but I want to respect their right to manage that process on their own.”

There was no immediate Israeli public comment on the U.S. demands. 

The United States, Israel’s key ally, has steadfastly supported the Jewish state’s war against Hamas, which began after the militant group’s October 7 terror attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of about 250 hostages.

Israel’s subsequent counteroffensive has killed more than 33,000 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to Palestinian health officials. Israel says the death toll includes several thousand militants. 

Cease-fire talks have stalled, but the White House said Biden “underscored” to Netanyahu “that an immediate cease-fire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians, and he urged the prime minister to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home.” 

The White House said the two leaders also discussed Iranian threats against Israel and the Israeli people, with the U.S. leader making clear that the United States “strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats.” 

Meanwhile, more calls came Thursday for Israel to account for its airstrike on a convoy in Gaza that killed the seven aid workers from World Central Kitchen. 

The food charity said it asked Australia, Britain, Canada, Poland and the United States to demand “an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks, including whether they were carried out intentionally or otherwise violated international law.” 

Those killed in Monday’s attack included a Palestinian, three British citizens, a Polish citizen, an Australian and a Canadian-American dual citizen.

“An independent investigation is the only way to determine the truth of what happened, ensure transparency and accountability for those responsible, and prevent future attacks on humanitarian aid workers,” World Central Kitchen said in a statement. 

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters Thursday that he is not satisfied with Israel’s response, “including that this is just a product of war.” 

“International humanitarian law makes it very clear that aid workers should be able to provide that aid and that assistance free of the threat of losing their life,” Albanese said. 

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told a news conference Thursday that Poland expects an explanation about what happened as well as compensation for the families of the victims.

The Pentagon said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “expressed his outrage at the Israeli strike” during a phone call Wednesday with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. 

“Secretary Austin stated that this tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. 

Austin also cited the need to rapidly increase the amount of aid entering Gaza in coming days, “particularly to communities in northern Gaza that are at risk of famine,” Ryder said. 

Israel’s armed forces chief, Herzi Halevi, called the attack a “grave mistake,” which he blamed on nighttime “misidentification.” 

Netanyahu has pledged the “tragic case” will be investigated “right to the end.”


The VOA is the Voice of America

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