Reports: US officials warn Israel it has limited time before support for war wanes

Amid Israel’s war against Hamas, US media says pressure growing in Washington to call for ceasefire and create distance from images coming out of Strip

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)
US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

US President Joe Biden’s administration is facing increased pressure in Washington to change course on Israel’s war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza and to publicly call for a ceasefire, US media reported on Friday, as the administration grows wary that images of death and destruction in the Strip may isolate the country on the global stage.

According to CNN, top Biden administration officials have been increasingly warning Israel that it will become more and more challenging to pursue Jerusalem’s goal of toppling Hamas in Gaza, where the group has been in power since 2007, due to the international outcry, and that there is limited time to do so with full US support.

The outlet quoted unnamed sources who alleged that Biden’s close advisers believe it may be a matter of weeks before the White House is compelled to call for a ceasefire.

Israel’s war against Hamas was triggered on October 7 when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking at least 240 hostages, most of them civilians.

The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has called “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

In response to the killings, Israel vowed to eradicate the terror group and destroy its infrastructure and has since hit thousands of Hamas targets inside the Strip with airstrikes and an ongoing ground operation. Israel says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.

The funeral of IDF soldier Yuval Zilber at a cemetery in Gan Sorek on November 2, 2023 (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Since the start of the war, the US has stressed that Israel has a right to defend itself in the face of terror, and has unequivocally condemned the attacks carried out by Hamas.

On October 18, Biden arrived in Israel for a whirlwind visit, the first wartime trip to Israel of any sitting US president, in a show of support for the country in the face of tragedy, and to meet with senior officials as well as the families of those held hostage in Gaza.

During his visit, he pledged that the US would do everything in its power to make sure that Israel would return to being “a safe place for the Jewish people.”

People march past the US Capitol during a march calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza following the terror group’s October 7 massacre, October 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The US sent warships and aircraft to the region in an effort to prevent the conflict from widening, and on November 1, a Pentagon official revealed that a number of US special forces have been assisting Israel in the task of finding the hundreds of hostages held inside the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, Biden has continued to urge Israel to use caution inside the Gaza Strip, in order to minimize civilian casualties, and has repeatedly put forward the option of a “humanitarian pause,” in order to allow aid into Gaza unimpeded, as well as to locate the hostages and negotiate for their release.

Despite the rumors of pushback from the far-left flank of the Democratic Party, Biden has continued to reiterate his support for Israel, and said Thursday that Washington will continue to back Israel’s right to defend itself “in line with international law,” while also working to ensure that humanitarian aid continues to be allowed into Gaza.

CNN stated that “particularly jarring to Biden and his national security team” were strikes on northern Gaza’s Jabaliya neighborhood earlier this week, which accompanied an IDF takeover of a Hamas command center situated there, and which reportedly caused many civilian deaths. Biden “didn’t like this at all,” one source was quoted as saying.

Israel has accused Hamas of forcing residents to stay in the northern part of the enclave and preventing them from evacuating to southern Gaza, as Israel has called on civilians to do since the early days of the war.

Palestinians wander among debris of buildings that Hamas says were targeted by Israeli airstrikes in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, November 1, 2023. The IDF has said it is targeting Hamas infrastructure above and below ground. (Abed Khaled/AP)

NBC quoted multiple unnamed current and former US officials as saying administration officials are more and more worried the country will become isolated on the world stage and are increasingly voicing concerns about how Israel is conducting the war.

“If this really goes bad, we want to be able to point to our past statements,” the outlet quoted one official as saying, adding that the Biden administration doesn’t want there to be a perception that it supports all of Jerusalem’s actions and that US arms were used to kill civilians.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Friday morning for the third time since the outbreak of war.

The purpose of the visit, he said before his departure for the region on Thursday night, is to seek “concrete steps” to minimize harm to Gaza civilians.

At the same time, however, he is expected to reiterate the US’s support for Israel once more, while refraining from offering any criticism of Israel for strikes that Hamas, in unverified claims, says have killed thousands of civilians in Gaza.

Israel has accused Hamas of using Gazan civilians and hospitals as human shields, making it impossible to tackle the terror group without hitting uninvolved people in the process.

According to an unconfirmed report Thursday by the Ynet news site, Hamas sent a group of 100 women and children to act as human shields to protect the Jabaliya compound amid the large-scale IDF strikes.

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip has accused Israel of killing more than 8,500 people, most of them civilians. The numbers cannot be verified by external sources, and Hamas is believed to be including its own members in the toll, as well as those killed by failed rocket launches from within Gaza.

Israel has repeatedly said it does its best not to harm civilians, but that conditions created by Hamas put civilians in harm’s way.

Jerusalem has repeatedly objected to any ceasefire and has declined to allow any fuel to enter the Strip, saying this would merely aid Hamas and help it regroup and replenish its stocks. It also says Hamas has stockpiles of fuel it is keeping to itself for its war effort, including for generators to keep its tunnels functional, and withholding from civilians in need.

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