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politics

Biden warns Israel against Rafah attack without plan to protect civilians

The president also directed a rare measure of direct criticism at Israel over its broader war, saying that “among the more than 27,000 Palestinians killed in this conflict, too many were innocent civilians and children.”

“Many families have lost not one, but many loved ones and cannot mourn them,” Biden said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Biden’s appearance following a meeting with Jordan’s king represented his first in-depth remarks since Thursday evening, when the president delivered a fiery rebuke of a special prosecutor’s report that repeatedly criticized his memory.

The report concluded that Biden’s mishandling of classified documents did not warrant criminal charges. But special counsel Robert Hur described the president as often forgetful — depictions that angered Biden and his advisers who challenged them as gratuitous and incorrect, and reignited scrutiny over age and acuity mentality of the president.

In the aftermath, Democrats urged the administration to allay voters’ fears about Biden’s age by making it public more often, including holding more news conferences and interviews that can highlight his leadership and mastery of questions.

But there is little immediate evidence that the administration is changing its approach.

The White House declined to hold a joint news conference with Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday, avoiding the so-called 2×2 format sometimes used during a foreign leader’s visit and which allows two media outlets from each country to To ask questions.

On Monday, Biden also chose not to answer questions alongside Jordan’s king and ignored a series of shouted questions as they left the room.

Biden briefly alluded to the special prosecutor’s criticism of his brief during a speech Monday morning to the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference. Yet, as he did with the broader age-related concerns that have dogged him for months, he sought to make a fall out of it.

“I know I don’t look it, but I’ve been here for a while,” Biden said. “I remember.”

But later, as he and Abdullah made their remarks, Biden stuck strictly to his prepared comments on the Israeli war and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“We are actively working for the peace, security and dignity of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people,” Biden said Monday. “We have also been clear from the start: we oppose any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. »

Biden added that the United States is working on a deal between Israel and Hamas that would halt fighting for at least six weeks, with hopes of reaching a longer-term truce. But there are still issues to be resolved, he said, urging Israeli leaders to continue working toward a deal.

The president’s call comes as relations between the United States and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have become increasingly tense. Biden has become increasingly critical of Netanyahu in public, saying last week that Israel’s war in Gaza was “overblown.”

Biden and other senior officials have also repeatedly expressed opposition to a ground operation in Rafah in recent days, including in a call with Netanyahu on Sunday in which Biden expressed his reservations.

On Monday, Biden again insisted that Israel must ultimately pursue a two-state solution, adding that the Palestinian Authority must be prepared to negotiate a lasting peace.

“Once Hamas’s control of Gaza ends, it must be ready to build a state that accepts peace and does not harbor terrorist groups,” he said.

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