© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Biden attends a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he visits Israel amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel October 18, 2023. REUTERS /Evelyn Hockstein//File Photo
By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jeff Mason
WOODSIDE, Calif. (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he had made clear to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a two-state solution was the only answer to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that occupation of Gaza would be “a solution”. big mistake.”
Biden told reporters he was doing everything in his power to free hostages held by the Hamas militant group in Gaza, but that did not mean sending in the U.S. military.
The US president told reporters this week that his message to the hostages was “Wait, we’re coming”, raising questions about what he meant.
Asked to clarify his comment, Biden told a news conference: “What I meant is I’m doing everything in my power to get you out. I come to help you, to get you out. I’m not talking about sending soldiers there. …I wasn’t talking about the army.”
Biden said he was constantly working on the issue and would not stop until the hostages – including a three-year-old American child – were freed.
Qatar, where Hamas operates a political office, led mediation between the Islamist militant group and Israeli officials for the release of more than 240 hostages. They were taken away by militants when they entered Israel on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the carnage.
Israel then launched a relentless bombardment of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and began an invasion of the enclave late last month, where more than 11,000 people were killed, including around 40 percent children and others buried under rubble, according to Palestinian officials.
Biden said Hamas was committing war crimes by placing its military headquarters under a hospital, repeating a statement made Tuesday by a White House spokesperson, and he was confident that U.S. intelligence supports thereby”.
He said Israel had entered Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, with a limited number of soldiers armed with rifles, and was not carpet-bombing the site.
“They were told…we discussed the need for them to be extremely cautious,” Biden said, adding that Israel had an obligation to exercise as much caution as possible in pursuing targets .
But he said it was “unrealistic” to expect Israel to stop its military actions, given threats by senior Hamas officials that they intended to attack Israel again and of their past “horrible” actions.
“Hamas has already publicly stated that it plans to attack Israel again, as it has done before, by cutting off the heads of babies,” Biden said, repeating a claim he made last month, when he said he had seen images of decapitated babies.
The White House clarified last month that U.S. officials had seen no evidence of this and said Biden was referring to reports of such actions. It was not immediately clear whether new information confirmed babies had been decapitated.
On Wednesday, Biden said Israel was now bringing in incubators and other equipment to help people, and that its soldiers were giving doctors, nurses and other personnel the opportunity to “get out of harm’s way.”
Israel said Wednesday its troops found Hamas weapons and combat equipment at Al Shifa hospital during a search Wednesday. Hamas called the announcement a “lie.”
Biden said he told Netanyahu he didn’t think the war would end until a two-state solution was found.
“I made it clear to Israel that I thought it was a big mistake to occupy Gaza,” he said.