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President Joe Biden signaled that the United States had not set a time frame for Israel to complete its military campaign against Hamas, even as international allies, officials in his administration and members of the Democratic Party put increasing pressure on Israel to curb its operation in Gaza.
Biden said Wednesday that Israel’s war against the Islamist militant group would end “when Hamas no longer has the ability to murder, abuse and just do terrible things to Israel.”
“How long it will last, I don’t know,” Biden said at a news conference on Wednesday after a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping outside San Francisco.
Israel declared war on Hamas after the group launched a surprise attack on October 7 that Israeli officials said killed 1,200 people in southern Israel, and announced it would drive them out of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials said the attack on Gaza killed more than 11,000 people and hospitals have been gradually shut down over the past two weeks as Israeli forces pushed deeper into the coastal enclave and restricted supplies of fuel, water and food.
“One thing is certain. . . “Hamas has a headquarters, weapons and materials, and I suspect others, below this hospital,” Biden said, referring to Al-Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza, where the Israeli military entered a hospital earlier on Wednesday in a so-called “targeted” operation to find Hamas weapons and infrastructure.
Israel claims that the hospital is located on an underground network of tunnels that house the group’s command centers.
Biden said the situation creates a “terrible dilemma” for Israel, but distinguished between Hamas, which he said has vowed to attack Israel “again and again,” and the Israeli military, which he said acted judiciously.
“The IDF. . . “Recognizing that they have an obligation to be as careful as possible in pursuing their goals, it’s not like they’re rushing into the hospital, tearing down doors, pulling people aside and shooting people indiscriminately,” Biden said.
The US president also noted that there was progress in talks between Qatar, Hamas, Israel and others on the release of some of the hostages held by Hamas, which Israel said numbered more than 200.
Biden suggested that Israel had already agreed to a pause in fighting as part of that effort, but backtracked, saying he was going into “too much detail.”
“I’m a little hopeful,” Biden said.
While Israel has agreed to breaks of several hours a day, Washington is pushing to extend them to a few days to bring more humanitarian aid to the besieged strip and allow time for the hostages to be freed.
U.S. officials said they believed up to 10 American citizens were among the hostages held by Hamas.