Israel-Hamas war intensifies, Gaza humanitarian crisis worsens

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The White House on Wednesday struggled to square President Joe Biden’s comments to donors that Israel’s offensive in Gaza was “indiscriminate” with the administration’s continued insistence that Israel’s “intent” is to limit civilian casualties.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was asked multiple times by reporters about Biden’s blunt claim Tuesday that Israel was beginning to lose global support in its war against Hamas because of the “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza.

Kirby repeatedly emphasized that the Biden administration sees Israel’s “intent” to minimize civilian deaths, despite the president saying Israel was not being deliberate and careful. 

Asked by CNN’s MJ Lee why the White House insists on saying Israel has the “intent” to minimize civilian casualties, Kirby responded that “sometimes in war… the best-laid plans don’t get executed exactly the way you want.”

“We know that from bitter experience and our own military, no matter how precise and targeted we tried to be in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were times when we caused civilian casualties as well,” he said.

There was “a clear intent by the Israelis — an intent that they have admitted to publicly — that they are doing everything they can to reduce civilian casualties,” Kirby added.

Pressed if the White House was trying to argue that Israel was both trying to be deliberate and careful but at the same time bombing indiscriminately in other situations, Kirby repeated his previous talking points. 

“We know they have the intent. We know they’re acting on the intent. Civilian casualties continue to happen. And again, we’re going to keep urging them to reduce those,” Kirby said.

The spokesperson was also asked about Biden’s remarks that he believed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to “change… with this government.” 

“The president realizes that Israel is a powerful, vibrant democracy and any change in the government is going to have to be determined by the Israeli people,” Kirby responded. He did not elaborate on what Biden meant by his comment.

About Biden’s comments: At a campaign reception Tuesday, Biden said most of the world supported Israel but it was “starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.” He also seemed to admit that Netanyahu acknowledged the bombings.

“It was pointed out to me — I’m being very blunt with you all — it was pointed out to me that — by Bibi — that ‘Well, you carpet-bombed Germany. You dropped the atom bomb. A lot of civilians died.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why all these institutions were set up after World War Two to see to it that it didn’t happen again — it didn’t happen again,’” Biden said, according to the official White House transcript of the event.

He also called Netanyahu “a good friend” but said he “has to change and — with this government.”


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