White House clarifies that Biden was talking about Israel when he said Gaza response ‘over the top’

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

US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House, February 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden speaks at the White House, February 8, 2024, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clarifies that US President Joe Biden was referring to Israel’s military operation against Hamas when he described the conduct of the response in Gaza as “over the top.”

“He was obviously talking about Israel’s conduct in Gaza,” Jean-Pierre says when asked about the matter during a press briefing.

“He’s been clear that the US wants to see the Hamas terror organization defeated. That is a shared goal that we have with Israel,” she continues. “At the same time, the president has also been very clear that they must do so by ensuring that their operations are targeted and conducted in a way that they are protecting innocent civilians.”

The president made the comments at the tail end of a White House press conference. As he was leaving the room, reporters shouted a hail of questions at him, including about “the hostage negotiations” and “Netanyahu says he’s ordered the IDF…”

The president turned back and said, “The hostage negotiations, look …” and returned to the microphone.

“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. I think that, as you know, the president of Mexico, Sissi” — Abdel Fattah al-Sissi is, in fact, president of Egypt — “did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate. I talked to Bibi [Netanyahu] to open the gate on the Israeli side.”

Biden went on: “I’ve been pushing really hard, really hard, to get humanitarian assistance into Gaza. There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s gotta stop. Number one.”

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