Biden: Hamas doesn't give a damn about innocent Palestinians

Biden welcomes return of 1st group of hostages, says Hamas only responds to pressure

US president says he asked Netanyahu to ‘focus on trying to reduce’ the number of civilian casualties in Gaza while working to ‘eliminate Hamas, which is the legitimate objective’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US President Joe Biden responds to a reporter as he leaves after speaking in Nantucket, Massachusetts, November 24, 2023, about hostages freed by Hamas in the first stage of a swap under a four-day temporary ceasefire deal. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
US President Joe Biden responds to a reporter as he leaves after speaking in Nantucket, Massachusetts, November 24, 2023, about hostages freed by Hamas in the first stage of a swap under a four-day temporary ceasefire deal. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

US President Joe Biden said Friday that Americans have another reason to be thankful on Thanksgiving following the release of 24 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, but in an apparent echo of Israel’s position, added that the agreement showed that the terror group would only “respond to pressure.”

“I don’t trust Hamas to do anything right. I only trust Hamas to respond to pressure,” he said in comments that fell in line with the Israeli position that the ongoing hostage deal would not have been possible without the intensive military operation in Gaza.

When asked whether he had pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to set a timeline for the end of the war, Biden said he has encouraged the Israeli premier “to focus on trying to reduce the number of casualties while he is attempting to eliminate Hamas, which is the legitimate objective.”

“That’s a difficult task, and I don’t know how long it will take. My expectation and hope is that as we move forward, the rest of the Arab world in the region is also putting pressure on all sides to slow this down to bring this to an end as quickly as we can,” Biden added.

Thirteen Israelis and 11 foreign nationals from Thailand and the Philippines were released Friday as part of the multi-day truce reached by Israel and Hamas, the first one since the outbreak of the war last month.

The 13 Israelis — including three mothers and their young children — are some of at least 50 Israeli women and children who are slated for release over the first four days of the lull in fighting, with three Palestinian security prisoners to be freed in exchange for each hostage.

Israeli hostages released on November 24, 2023: Top from L-R: Adina Moshe, Margalit Moses, Danielle Aloni and her daughter Emilia; middle: Doron Asher and her daughters Raz and Aviv, Hannah Katzir; bottom row: Keren Munder and her son Ohad, Ruti Munder, Yaffa Adar and Channah Peri. (Courtesy)

The four-day truce can potentially be extended for one extra day for each group of 10 more hostages freed by Hamas.

The released hostages are only a small group out of the some 240 held by Gaza terrorists since October 7, when 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians among unimaginable acts of brutality.

“Today we can also be thankful for families being reunited with loved ones who have been held hostage for nearly 50 days,” Biden said in prepared remarks to the press in Nantucket, Massachusetts where he is celebrating Thanksgiving.

“The teddy bears waiting to greet those [released] children at the hospital are a stark reminder of the trauma these children have been through and at such a very young age,” Biden lamented, adding that he and his wife Jill are “keeping them all in our prayers today.”

Toys await child hostages released from Hamas captivity, at Hatzerim Airbase in southern Israel, November 24, 2023 (IDF)

The US president highlighted the three American citizens who fit the criteria for release in the agreement, including Avigail Idan, who turned four on Friday and whose parents were murdered on October 7 by Hamas terrorists.

“We will not stop until we get these hostages brought home and an answer to their whereabouts,” Biden said, adding that Friday’s release was “only a start.”

Avigail Idan (left) 3, here with her father Roee and brother Michael, was taken captive by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Kfar Aza. Both of Avigail’s parents were murdered in front of her before she was kidnapped.(Courtesy)

Biden said that the hostage deal was a result of “extensive US diplomacy, including numerous calls I’ve made from the Oval Office to leaders across the region,” while making a point of thanking Netanyahu along with mediators in Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for their cooperation in seeing the agreement through.

Biden noted that the humanitarian pause would accelerate aid into Gaza while facilitating the release of the hostages.

“[It] brings a critical opportunity to deliver much-needed food, medicine, water and fuel to the civilians in Gaza, and we are not wasting one single minute,” he said, adding that mechanisms were in place to ensure that the aid got to those who need it, rather than being diverted to Hamas.

More than 200 trucks arrived outside at the Rafah Crossing on Friday, amid a growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Some of those trucks carried fuel “not only to power the trucks delivering these life-saving supplies but also for desalinization, for water wells, for hospitals and for bakeries,” Biden said.

“Hundreds of more trucks are getting in position as well, ready to enter Gaza over the coming days to support the innocent Palestinians who are suffering greatly because of this war that Hamas has unleashed,” Biden said. “Hamas doesn’t give a damn about them.”

The Hamas-run Health Ministry claims that more than 14,000 Gazans have been killed since the start of the war, in figures that cannot be independently verified and do not distinguish between civilians and Hamas operatives or between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, hours after the start of a four-day truce between Israel and Palestinian Hamas terrorists, on November 24, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

In his address, Biden also called for renewing efforts to advance a two-state solution following the October 7 Hamas onslaught.

“We need to renew our resolve to pursue [a] two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can one day live side by side… with equal measure of freedom and dignity,” Biden said.

“Hamas unleashed this terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” he said. “To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing and war is to give Hamas what it seeks. We can’t do that.”

Biden again raised his claim that one of the reasons that Hamas carried out the onslaught was because his administration was “working very closely with the Saudis and others in the region to bring peace to the region by having recognition of Israel and Israel’s right to exist.”

While he acknowledged that he “cannot prove” this assertion, he said it was what he believes.

Biden pointed to the September announcement of a new rail and shipping corridor connecting Europe to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“The whole idea has overwhelming interest,” he said, adding that he would continue advancing such initiatives “to change the dynamic in [the Middle East] for longer-term peace.”

US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, October 18, 2023. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Biden was also asked about members of the Democratic party who have called for aid to Israel to be conditioned on its human rights record.

“That’s a worthwhile thought, but I don’t think if I started off with that we’d have ever gotten to where we are today. We have to take this one piece at a time,” Biden responded.

The response raised eyebrows as the Biden administration to date has opposed efforts to condition aid to Israel beyond stipulations that already exist in all security assistance packages, which critics claim are not applied to the Jewish state.

However, it was not entirely clear whether Biden’s initial response was to the question regarding conditioning aid as another question was also being shouted at the same time.

The White House did not immediately respond to a query on the matter.

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