Israel pressed on with its bombing campaign as diplomats sought to salvage ceasefire talks after PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a Hamas proposal that also envisaged the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.
The US hopes to secure a pause in fighting before Israel carries out a threatened ground assault on Rafah, where over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are sheltering near the border with Egypt. Palestinian health officials said at least 15 people were killed in the latest air strikes, including eight in Rafah, the last refuge for many Gazans displaced as Israeli’s offensive advanced southwards through the narrow coastal enclave. Washington warned on Thursday that any Israeli military operation launched in Rafah without due consideration for the plight of civilians would be a disaster, and said it would not support it.
In some of his sharpest public criticism to date of Netanyahu’s govt, Biden told reporters at the White House on Thursday: “I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top.”
Biden said he has been pushing for a deal to normalise Saudi Arabia-Israel relations, increase the amount of humanitarian aid reaching Palestinian civilians, and pause fighting for a time to allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas. “I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire,” Biden said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s gotta stop.” Gaza’s health ministry said Friday 27,947 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict, 107 of them in the last 24 hours.