Biden reaffirms Israel defending itself within international and humanitarian law

President Biden on Wednesday reaffirmed his administration’s stance that Israel has the right to defend itself in the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist attacks, while noting images coming out of Gaza that show children crying out for their parents and efforts to identify the dead.

Biden noted the images of parents in Gaza who wrote the names of their children on their legs so they could be identified, as well as other images of children suffering on the ground.

“We’re going to continue to affirm that Israel has the right, responsibility to defend its citizens from terror and it needs to do so in a manner that is consistent with international and humanitarian law and prioritizes the protection of citizens,” Biden said during remarks in Northfield, Minn.

He added, “We’ve all seen the devastating images from Gaza — Palestinian children crying out for lost parents, parents reasoning and writing their children’s names on their hands and legs to be identified if the worst happens.”

The president has thrown his support behind Israel since the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, but he has shifted his response in recent weeks to lean more into humanitarian aid and support for Palestinian civilians on the ground in Gaza.

“The loss of every innocent life is a tragedy,” he said Wednesday, ahead of remarks about infrastructure investments. “We grieve for those deaths and continue to grieve for the Israeli children and mothers who were brutally slaughtered by Hamas terrorists.”

Gaza has been pummeled by Israeli airstrikes in the aftermath of the attacks and the response has raised alarms about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the need for adequate food, water and medicine in the area.

Biden noted during his remarks in Minnesota that the U.S. is “continuing working to significantly step up” humanitarian assistance into Gaza and that not enough has been done.

“The number of trucks entering Gaza continues to increase significantly, but we still have a long way to go. The United States is going to continue to drive humanitarian support for innocent people in Gaza who need help,” he said.

The White House has said it would start considering support for a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid into the enclave but has rebuffed pressure from progressives and activists for a cease-fire in Gaza, arguing that it would only help Hamas.

Biden’s remarks came just after the White House confirmed that American citizens are among those who began to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Biden said there will be more on the process “in the coming days,” but that the first group includes a portion of more than 1,000 American citizens looking to get out.

“Today, thanks to concerted American leadership, we’re in a situation where safe passage for wounded Palestinians and foreign nationals to exit Gaza has started,” he said. “We’re working nonstop to get Americans out of Gaza as soon and as safely as possible.”

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