- ‘My warning to the ayatollah was that if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond. And he should be prepared,’ Biden said
- He also gave a rare rebuke to Israeli settlers in the West Bank
- He called retaliatory attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank ‘pouring gasoline on fires’
President Joe Biden on Wednesday issued a stark new warning to Iran to be ‘prepared’ for a response should they escalate the conflict in the Middle East as he condemned extremist settlers who attacked Palestinians and questioned Hamas’ death tolls.
Biden, in a news conference with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, spoke mostly about the conflict between Israel and Hamas along and he addressed concerns that Iranian-linked groups could attack U.S. troops in the region as part of retaliation measures.
‘My warning to the ayatollah was that if they continue to move against those troops, we will respond. And he should be prepared. Nothing to do with Israel,’ he said.
The president defended Israel’s right to respond to the October 7th terrorist attacks on their people but also gave a rare rebuke to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and reiterated calls for a two-state solution for Palestinians and the Israelis once the current conflict subsides.
President Biden defended Israeli’s attack but issued a rare rebuke to attacks on Palestinian civilians
‘Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians,’ Biden said in the Rose Garden press conference.
He pointed out that ‘Hamas does not represent the vast majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip or anywhere else. Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians and it is despicable and not surprisingly, cowardly as well.’
In his remarks, he offered a complete defense of Israel.
‘Israel has the right and I would add responsibility to respond to the slaughter of their people. And we will ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself against these terrorists; that’s a guarantee.’
And he condemned the brutality of the Hamas attack that killed 1,400 Israelis, leading to a two-week war that shows no signs of abating.
He said he was convinced that Hamas was driven in part by a desire undo U.S.-led efforts to normalize Israeli relations with some of its Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.
‘I’m convinced part of why Hamas attacked when they did, I have no proof of this. It is may instinct. It was because of the progress we’ve made toward regional integration with Israel,’ he noted.
The president also said that after the Israel-Hamas conflict comes to an end, Israeli, Palestinians and its partners must work towards a two-state solution.
‘Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live side by side in safety, dignity and peace,’ Biden said.
Al-Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh mourns over the body of one of his children who was killed along with his wife and daughter in an Israeli strike in the Nuseirat camp, at Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah on the southern Gaza Strip
Palestinians transport wounded women who were found on the street following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City
But he also spoke out against retaliatory attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, calling it ‘pouring gasoline on fires.’
‘I continue to be alarmed about extremist settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank, pouring gasoline on fires. This was a deal. The deal was made and they’re attacking Palestinians in places they’re entitled to be. It has to stop. And it has to stop now.’
Biden also said he had ‘no confidence’ in the claims by Hamas about the number of civilians who have been killed in Gaza during the last two weeks. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said more than 6,500 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes since Oct. 7, a number which could not be independently verified.
‘I have no notion if Palestinians are telling the truth about how many have been killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed and it is the price of waging war,’ he said, adding that ‘I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.’