US President Joe Biden again firmly aligned himself late Wednesday with Jerusalem’s position on the duration of the war against Hamas, saying Israel can go on until it achieves its goal of eliminating the Gaza-ruling terror group’s ability to endanger Israelis.
In a televised press conference following his long-anticipated meeting with China’s Xi Jinping, Biden said Israel’s operation in Gaza, following the shock Hamas massacres in southern Israeli communities last month, “will end when Hamas no longer maintains the capacity to murder, abuse, and do horrific things to the Israelis.”
Biden added that Israel’s military has “an obligation to use as much caution as they can in going after their targets. Hamas said they plan to attack Israelis again and this is a terrible dilemma.”
The Biden administration has continued to oppose international calls for Israel to cease fire, saying that Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas after the October 7 onslaught, while pushing for more short-term humanitarian pauses and asserting that it expects Israel to abide by the rules of war while fighting in Gaza.
Biden said Israel was taking risks in operating around Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, but “one thing has been established: Hamas does have headquarters, weapons, materiel, below this hospital, and — I suspect — others.”
The president said US officials have held discussions with the Israelis, urging them to be “incredibly careful” in military moves around hospitals in the Palestinian enclave.
Biden added that he was “mildly hopeful” that there will be a deal to free at least some of the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself here because I don’t know what’s happened in the last four hours, but we have gotten great cooperation from the Qataris,” he said when asked about progress on freeing the hostages abducted on October 7, when Hamas-led terrorists also killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
Qatar has been leading mediation efforts for the release of the hostages.
During Q&A, Biden said of Hamas that “they plan on doing the same thing again… what they did on the 7th… They want to slaughter Israelis. They want to do it again. And they’ve said it out loud. They’re not even kidding about it. They’re not backing off. And so, I just asked the rhetorical question, ‘I wonder what we would do if that were the case?'”
Asked what he meant when he said earlier in the week, regarding the hostages, “We’re coming for you,” Biden replied: “What I meant was I’m doing everything in my power to get you out — coming to help you to get you out. I don’t mean sending military in to get them… I’m working on how I can be helpful in getting the hostages released and have a period of time where there’s a pause long enough to let that happen.”
A day earlier, the Biden administration confirmed long-held Israeli assertions that Hamas is using medical facilities for military purposes, amid an IDF operation in Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital, which is believed to host the terror group’s main command post.
“We have information that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters during a briefing.
“Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a command and control [center] from al-Shifa in Gaza City. They have stored weapons there and they’re prepared to respond to an Israeli military operation against that facility,” Kirby said, citing US intelligence assessments.
He clarified that the US does not support Israel striking the medical center from the air. “Hospitals and patients must be protected,” he said, stressing that innocent people are sheltering inside and do not “deserve not to be caught in the crossfire.”
The IDF said Wednesday that its troops had found military equipment in an operation that began before dawn and continued for much of the day.
Israeli forces entered part of Shifa Hospital, with a journalist at the site telling AFP that the IDF had carried out room-by-room searches of that area, after days of fighting on the outskirts of the facility with Hamas gunmen.
“In the hospital, we found weapons, intelligence materials, and military technology and equipment,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari told reporters.
“We also found an operational headquarters with comms equipment… belonging to Hamas” and “Hamas uniforms,” he said.
The army published images of guns, grenades and other equipment it said were found at Shifa.
“These findings unequivocally prove that the hospital was used for terror, in complete violation of international law,” Hagari said.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza denied the claims, saying Israeli forces “did not find any equipment or weapons in the hospital.”
Israel renewed its military operation Thursday at Shifa, targeting the hospital’s underground areas.
Agencies contributed to this report.