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War on Gaza: Biden calls Israel's conduct 'over the top' as he pushes for aid

US president's comments come as Antony Blinken cancels Gaza crossing visit over far-right blockade of aid shipments
US President Joe Biden answers questions about Israel after speaking about the Special Counsel report in the White House in Washington DC, on 8 February 2024 (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

US President Joe Biden said Israel's conduct in Gaza has been "over the top", adding that he is seeking a sustained pause in fighting to allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Thursday, Biden said it was urgent that action be taken to get support for Palestinians in Gaza, who aid groups have warned are at risk of a major famine.

"I'm of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been over the top," he said.

"There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it's got to stop."

Biden pointed out that he had successfully managed to convince Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi - who he initially appeared to confuse with the president of Mexico - to allow assistance into Gaza from the south.

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"I talked to him, I convinced him to open the gate. I talked to Bibi to open the gate on the Israeli side," he continued, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I've been pushing really hard, really hard, to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza."

Biden's comments come as Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancelled a planned visit to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza after Israel said it could not commit to preventing protests that have stopped aid crossing into the strip in recent weeks.

The visit was aimed at allowing Blinken to evaluate the passage of aid trucks through the Israeli crossing.

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Far-right protesters, who claim to represent the families of hostages held in Gaza, have successfully managed to disrupt a number of aid shipments through their sit-ins.

Over 27,900 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, the Palestinian health ministry said on Friday. More than 67,400 have been wounded in Israel’s onslaught on the blockaded territory.

On Thursday, the UN’s aid agency, OCHA, warned that the risk of famine in Gaza is “increasing by the day”, especially for some 300,000 people in northern Gaza.

OCHA reported that the World Food Programme has warned that the amount of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza City in the north was “not enough to prevent a famine”.

Washington and more than a dozen of its mostly western allies have suspended funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Unwra, the main body providing essential aid to Gaza,

Despite repeated warnings from health and aid agencies, Biden's administration has been largely supportive of Israel's actions in Gaza and has rejected calls to demand a ceasefire.

On Thursday, Biden said that he was still working to arrange a deal whereby there could be a halt to fighting and secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

"I'm pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire. I've been working tirelessly on this deal," he said.

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