President Biden met with the families of Americans being held hostage in Gaza at the White House on Wednesday, a day after giving his most critical remarks to date about what he called Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of the territory.
Mr. Biden said on Tuesday that the nature of Israel’s attacks on Gaza was eroding what had been broad international support for its war on Hamas, the group that controls much of Gaza and killed more than 1,200 people on Oct. 7 in southern Israel. Palestinian civilians fleeing the fighting, moving farther and farther south at the Israeli military’s urging, have been hit with airstrikes even in the places they have been told to seek refuge. At least 15,000 people, and likely thousands more, have been killed in Gaza since Israel started its offensive more than two months ago, according to the local health authorities.
The president’s comments, at a fund-raiser in Washington, were a sign of the widening gulf between U.S. and Israeli leaders. Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel reaffirmed his position that the Palestinian Authority should not be involved in governing Gaza after the war, something the United States has publicly advocated for after the conflict.
“Yes, there is disagreement about ‘the day after Hamas,’” Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, said on Tuesday that he would soon travel to Israel to meet with Mr. Netanyahu, his war cabinet and other Israeli leaders, carrying messages from the president to discuss “timetables” for the end of the war. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal forum in Washington, Mr. Sullivan reiterated the American view that a “revamped and revitalized” Palestinian Authority should oversee Gaza and the West Bank.
Last week, Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, expressed concern that Israel was not doing enough to limit the human toll in Gaza, saying “there does remain a gap” between Israel’s stated “intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.”
Even so, the United States has remained steadfast in its support of Israel in the war, last week casting the sole vote against a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. On Tuesday, the shift in world opinion seemed to be on display when more than three-quarters of the larger 193-member U.N. body, known as the General Assembly, voted overwhelmingly for a nonbinding resolution to bring the conflict to an end. The United States was one of 10 countries to vote against it.
The White House confirmed that Mr. Biden would on Wednesday meet with the families of some of the estimated eight hostages with American citizenship being held in Gaza, his first in-person encounter with relatives of the captives. The president has previously spoken to them via video call.
Roughly 100 of the 240 hostages kidnapped on Oct 7. have been released, including some Americans.