President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Israel had “a right to defend itself” from rockets from Hamas, but made no mention of the dozens of Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes in recent days.
When a reporter asked if he was “concerned about the violence in the Middle East” and whether he had spoken to officials in the region, Biden said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that his “hope is that we’ll see this coming to a conclusion sooner than later.”
“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” Biden said, adding that his national security and defense staff have been in “constant contact” with Israel and other nations in the region.
In a readout of Biden’s call with Netanyahu, the White House said Biden had “condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups” and “conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people, while protecting civilians.” The U.S. has been engaging diplomatically with Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Palestinian officials, the statement said.
The White House did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Biden not mentioning the Israeli airstrikes that killed dozens of Palestinians.
Violence has escalated dramatically in the region in recent days. There have been ongoing protests against the planned eviction of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Outcry grew on Friday after Israeli police cracked down on protesters, injured worshippers and unleashed tear gas in Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.
Since Monday, Hamas has fired about 1,500 rockets into several Israeli cities, according to the Israeli army, killing six Israelis, including a child. Israel’s repeated strikes into Gaza have killed 65 Palestinians, including 16 children, and wounded over 300 others, according to Gaza’s ministry of health.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) slammed Biden’s statement on Wednesday as “dehumanizing” Palestinians, saying that “by only stepping in to name Hamas’ actions - which are condemnable - [and] refusing to acknowledge the rights of Palestinians, Biden reinforces the false idea that Palestinians instigated this cycle of violence. This is not neutral language. It takes a side - the side of occupation.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) condemned Biden for making “no mention of the 13 innocent children killed in air strikes; no mention of the ongoing occupation of millions in an open air prison,” saying the president was “siding with an oppressive occupation.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who is Palestinian American, pointed to a letter from progressive group MoveOn urging Biden to call on Israel “to end the occupation, ease the blockade and put an immediate stop to forcing Palestinians out of their homes.”