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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Biden declares Israel's military operation in Gaza 'not genocide', says Americans 'stand with Israel'

US President condemns International Criminal Court move to issue arrest warrants against top Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for crimes against humanity, insists there is ‘no equivalence between Israel and Hamas’

Michael D. Shear Published 21.05.24, 02:28 PM
Joe Biden.

Joe Biden. File picture.

President Joe Biden said flatly on Monday that Israel’s military assault in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks “is not genocide.” “We reject that,” he said, telling an audience of Jewish leaders and activists that Americans “stand with Israel.”

Speaking at a celebration of Jewish Heritage Month in the Rose Garden at the White House, Biden condemned a decision by the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court to seek arrest warrants for top Israeli officials for crimes against humanity, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when he requested warrants for three Hamas leaders on the same accusation Monday.

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“Let me be clear, we reject the ICC’s application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders,” Biden said, adding to a series of denunciations of the prosecutor’s actions from U.S. officials throughout the day. “Whatever these warrants may imply, there’s no equivalence between Israel and Hamas.”

U.S. officials have said for months that Biden’s administration rejects the accusation that members of the Israeli military or the country’s political leaders are conducting a genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

Authorities in Gaza say at least 35,000 people have been killed during Israel’s bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza in response to the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7. Israeli officials deny their forces have purposely targeted civilians, arguing Hamas purposely hides its forces among noncombatants. They also deny Israel has restricted aid to Gaza with the intent of starving people.

Just hours before Biden’s comments, John Kirby, a national security spokesperson for the White House, rejected the implication from the ICC move.

“IDF soldiers are not waking up in the morning, putting their boots on the ground, with direct orders to go kill innocent civilians in Gaza,” Kirby said, using the abbreviation for the Israel Defense Forces.

But Biden has rarely been as blunt as he was Monday, prompted in part by the ICC’s chief prosecutor’s request that the court approve arrest warrants for Netanyahu and the Israeli defense minister, Yoav Gallant, as well as for Yehia Sinwar, Hamas’ leader within Gaza; Mohammed Deif, Hamas’ military leader; and Ismail Haniyeh, the movement’s Qatar-based political leader.

The prosecutor, Karim Khan, did not directly raise accusations of genocide in his request for the warrants, but they have been leveled against Israel by aid organizations and activists, including by many college students in the United States during weeks of protests, some of which turned violent, at campuses around the country.

Biden and his aides have repeatedly said they believe the deaths in Gaza are a tragedy and have said Israeli forces need to be more precise in their conduct of military operations to avoid civilian deaths as they prosecute the war against Hamas.

In his remarks Monday evening, Biden said his administration was “providing critical humanitarian assistance to help innocent Palestinian civilians who are suffering greatly because of the war Hamas — Hamas — has unleashed. It’s heartbreaking.”

Biden’s comments came as he vowed to do everything in his power to help win the release of the hostages still held in Gaza by Hamas. Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin, American parents of one of the hostages, Hersh Goldberg, were in the audience.

“I pledge to both of you and I mean it — and I know you know, Mom, I mean it — that I will not rest until we bring your loved one home,” Biden said. “We got to bring him home.”

The New York Times News Service

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