Biden Says ‘Indiscriminate Bombing’ in Gaza is Costing Israel Support

Loay Ayyoub for The Washington
Rescuers try to free people trapped under a building in the Gaza city of Rafah after it was hit by an airstrike early Tuesday.

President Biden offered sharp criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct of the war on Hamas in Gaza on Tuesday, suggesting that Israel’s closest ally and biggest donor is souring on a campaign that has killed thousands of Palestinians and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

Biden told supporters that “the indiscriminate bombing that takes place” was beginning to cost Israel support around the world.

“Bibi’s got a tough decision to make,” Biden said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. “I think he has to change, and with this government, this government in Israel is making it very difficult for him to move.”

The comments, delivered at a fundraiser in Washington, stood out as some of the most direct language the president has used in speaking about his Israeli counterpart. Biden and Netanyahu, who have known each other for decades, have in recent days expressed increasingly divergent views of the conflict.

The Biden administration has grown increasingly vocal in its concern for the human toll of the war, which has killed at least 18,412 people in little more than two months, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. The growing number of civilian casualties has vexed administration officials, who have pushed for another humanitarian pause to allow the release of more Israeli hostages and the delivery of more aid to the besieged enclave.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has rejected several U.S. proposals. Earlier Tuesday, he said there was “disagreement about ‘the day after Hamas,'” but he hoped it could be overcome.

Netanyahu, under pressure from Israel’s right wing, has pushed back against U.S. calls to allow the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza after the war.

“I would like to clarify my position: I will not allow Israel to repeat the mistake of Oslo,” the U.S.-brokered peace accords of the 1990s. “After the great sacrifice of our civilians and our soldiers, I will not allow the entry into Gaza of those who educate for terrorism, support terrorism and finance terrorism.”

On Monday, Netanyahu told lawmakers that Gaza would remain under “Israeli military control” and its civilian government would “be rehabilitated under Gulf countries’ leadership.”

“We won’t give in to international pressure,” he said.

The current hostilities erupted Oct. 7 when Hamas and allied fighters streamed out of Gaza, killed more than 1,200 people in Israel and took another 240 back to the enclave as hostages. Israel responded with a military campaign that commanders say will eradicate the militant group as a political and military force.

The United States is growing increasingly isolated in supporting that campaign.

The U.N. General Assembly, meeting in emergency session on Tuesday, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for a second time to demand a cease-fire. The measure garnered the support of 153 U.N. member states – 33 more than backed a similar measure in October. The United States joined Israel and eight other members Tuesday in opposing it; 23 members abstained.

The session was requested by Egypt and Mauritania after the U.S. vetoed a cease-fire resolution last week that was backed by the majority of the Security Council.

Israel has said a cease-fire would allow Hamas to regroup and organize more deadly attacks on Israelis. But as the Israel Defense Forces continue to prosecute the war, world leaders and relief officials are sounding increasingly dire warnings about conditions for civilians in the enclave and the scarcity of aid to help.

Israeli officials said Tuesday they had opened a second station for screening Gaza-bound aid at the Kerem Shalom border crossing on the enclave’s southeast corner. They have said it will help double the volume of supplies they allow to enter the Strip. But they won’t enter at Kerem Shalom. The IDF said all aid will continue to be funneled through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

In southern Gaza, food and ingredients are scarce and expensive. “Tens of thousands are waiting, and the distribution is so slow,” said Wissam Sabbah, a 41-year-old resident of Rafah. He said he waited all day Monday and Tuesday for three bags of flour at a U.N. distribution center without success.

“Nothing is available to feed the family but bread,” he said. “The fight is over food and basic needs more than anything else in the south.”

Witnesses reported strikes early Tuesday morning near Rafah, where many Palestinians have fled.

Wael Harb, 49, told The Washington Post that residents of the Al-Zuhur neighborhood, less than a mile north of Rafah, were awakened at 3 a.m. by the sound of three explosions that targeted four homes. He said the force of the explosions threw bodies onto the rooftops of nearby houses.

Conditions in northern Gaza, the initial focus of Israel’s war on Hamas, have become increasingly perilous for aid workers attempting to help civilians. The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a medical convoy to al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City last week was stopped twice and shot at.

The convoy was delivering trauma and surgical supplies to treat 1,500 patients and transferring 19 critically ill patients with 14 companions to a hospital in southern Gaza, the WHO said. Health workers were temporarily detained and interrogated, the WHO said; they “saw one of them being made to kneel at gunpoint and then taken out of sight, where he was reportedly harassed, beaten, stripped and searched.”

The WHO did not identify who carried out the alleged shooting, detentions and checks. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims.

Doctors Without Borders said one of their surgeons was injured Monday by a shot fired outside Al-Awda hospital in northern Gaza, where Israel has been conducting ground operations.

“Reports coming out of Al-Awda hospital are harrowing and we are gravely worried for safety of patients and staff inside” said Renzo Fricke, an MSF Country Director. “Al-Awda is a functioning hospital with medical staff and many patients in vulnerable condition.”

Loay Ayyoub for The Washington Post
Palestinians inspect what remains of a home in Rafah after it was destroyed in an airstrike Tuesday.