President Biden criticized Israel’s response in the Gaza Strip as “over the top” on Thursday, while defending U.S. efforts to broker a cease-fire and increase the amount of humanitarian aid reaching the territory.
In remarks that were overshadowed by questions over his memory and his mistakenly referring to the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, instead as the president of Mexico, Mr. Biden appeared to describe Israel’s war in Gaza as disproportionate.
“A lot of innocent people starving, in trouble, dying,” he said at a news conference at the White House, where he answered questions about his age and memory. “And it’s got to stop.”
Israel has signaled this week that its military is gearing up to push into Rafah, a sliver at the southern end of Gaza where hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing the violence have been crammed in. More than 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza four months of war, and most people are facing starvation and disease in addition to the continual airstrikes.
The president has previously been critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza, saying in December that the country was engaged in “indiscriminate bombing” as the United States and other allies were pushing for more targeted approaches to limit civilian deaths. He said at the time that Israel’s conduct in the war was eroding international support for its position in the conflict.
Those remarks, at a fund-raiser in Washington, also included assessments of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the leader of “the most conservative government in Israel’s history,” showing growing rifts between Israel and its strongest ally.
That gulf over a way out of the war was on full display this week, when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken traveled to the Middle East to push for a cease-fire deal.
The Israeli prime minister pre-empted a joint news conference that would have been customary after his meeting with Mr. Blinken and instead met on his own with reporters to criticize the proposal the Americans saw as a potential opening to a solution.