President Joe Biden told reporters in San Francisco Wednesday that he would not impose a deadline on Israel to end its war against Hamas in Gaza, until “Hamas no longer maintains the capacity to murder and abuse and do horrific things to the Israelis.”
Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing roughly 1,400 people, wounding thousands more, taking some 240 hostages, and committing atrocities that shocked the world. Hamas recently vowed to repeat such attacks in the future until it destroys Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are currently trying to dislodge Hamas from its headquarters at Shifa Hospital, where it has hidden terrorists and weapons, in violation of the laws of war. Israel revealed evidence of Hamas’s use of the hospital Wednesday.
Biden was addressing a press conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Asked about Israel’s actions at Shifa Hospital, he said that Hamas had committed “the first war crime” by locating its facilities at the hospital. He said the U.S. had advised Israel to be “incredible careful” at the hospital, and noted that Israel was not “carpet bombing” it. He noted Israel was bringing “incubators” and other means to help patients, and helping doctors and nurses evacuate.
He was then asked “long you are willing to support Israel in this operation,” and whether there was progress in a deal to release any of the Israeli hostages.
The president said that he was working on the hostage negotiations through Qatar, and said he was “mildly hopeful” for a deal.
He then added:
With regard to when is this going to stop, I think it’s going to stop when Hamas no longer maintains the capacity to murder and abuse and just do horrific things to the Israelis. And at least as of this morning, they still thought they could. … The IDF, the Israeli [sic]Defense Forces, acknowledges they have an obligation to use as much caution as they can going after their targets. It is not like they are rushing into a hospital, knocking down doors and pulling people aside and shooting people indiscriminately. But Hamas, as I said, said they plan on attacking Israelis again, and this is a terrible dilemma. So what do you do? I think that Israel is also taking risks themselves about their folks being killed, one-to-one, going through the hospital halls. But one thing that has been established is that Hamas does have headquarters, weapons, materièl, below this hospital and I suspect others. How long it will last, I do not know. … Hamas said they plan on doing the same thing again, what they did on the 7th. They want to go in and slaughter Israelis. They want to do it again. They have said it out loud. They are not kidding about it. They are not backing off. And so I just ask rhetorical questions. I wonder what we would do if that were the case?
Biden said that he had told Israel it would be a mistake to occupy Gaza after the war, and that he still believed the “two-state solution” to be the best way to avoid future conflict. He also clarified that when he said he was willing to do “everything in my power” to bring the hostages, including Americans, home, “I am not talking about U.S. military.”
He also said negotiations were hung up on the number of hostages to be released — 15 to 100 — and how long a “pause” in the war Israel would allow in return.
Some Biden administration officials have openly pressured Israel to stop the war. That has led to criticisms from some Israelis. On Sunday, the father of an Israeli officer killed in action against Hamas delivered a eulogy at his son’s graveside in which he addressed Biden, in English, telling the president not to pressure Israel to stop the war: “Let us do what we know how to do.”