Biden says Israel must do 'everything possible' to protect civilians

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US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that Israel has the right to respond to the Hamas attack but must do "everything possible" to protect civilians.

Biden also told reporters at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that he did not demand Israel delay a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.

"Israel has the right and I would add the responsibility to respond to the massacre of its people," Biden told reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House.

Biden accused Hamas, which rules Gaza, of "hiding behind" Palestinian civilians while Israel bombs the territory, but warned that Israel must follow the "laws of war."

"Israel must do everything in its power, no matter how difficult, to protect innocent civilians. "It's difficult," she said.

The US president also said that attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank must "stop now."

"That's throwing gasoline on the fire," he said. "They are attacking Palestinians in places that rightfully belong to them, and... it has to stop now."

Israel has been bombing Gaza since October 7, when gunmen from the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas crossed the border and killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped another 222, according to Israeli authorities, in the worst attack in history. of Israel since its creation in 1948.

More than 6,500 Palestinians, mostly also civilians, have been killed so far in Israeli retaliatory strikes, according to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Health Ministry.

However, Biden cast doubt on the civilian casualty figures presented by the Palestinians. "I'm sure innocent people have died, and that's the price of waging war," he said. "But I don't trust the figure the Palestinians are using."

Meanwhile, US media reported that Biden pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone a ground incursion into Gaza until Hamas releases the hostages, but Biden denied this.

“What I indicated to him is that if it is possible to get these people out safely, that is what he should do. "It's your decision," Biden said. "But I didn't demand it."

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