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Biden and Netanyahu Clash Over Gaza War

WorldMiddle EastBiden and Netanyahu Clash Over Gaza War


A day after President Biden asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu dismissed that contention as “wrong,” escalating the leaders’ increasingly public dispute.

Mr. Netanyahu, in an interview with Politico that was to be aired on Sunday night, challenged Mr. Biden’s assessment of Israel’s military strategy in the Gaza Strip, saying that his policies represented the “overwhelming majority” of Israelis.

“I don’t know exactly what the president meant, but if he meant by that that I’m pursuing private policies against the majority, the wish of the majority of Israelis, and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then he’s wrong on both counts,” Mr. Netanyahu told Politico. An excerpt from the interview was released by the prime minister’s office.

The Israeli leader was responding to comments Mr. Biden made on Saturday in an interview with MSNBC that was also to be aired on Sunday night. Mr. Biden rebuked Mr. Netanyahu over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, even as he reaffirmed American support for Israel.

“He has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken,” Mr. Biden said.

“In my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel,” Mr. Biden said, appearing to refer to Mr. Netanyahu’s military strategy. “It’s contrary to what Israel stands for, and I think it’s a big mistake. So I want to see a cease-fire.”

The sparring comes amid a mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with the United Nations and aid agencies warning of looming famine in the besieged enclave of 2.2 million. Health officials in Gaza reported that at least 25 people, most of them children, had died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent days.

On Sunday, the U.S. military said that an Army vessel, the General Frank S. Besson, had set sail a day earlier from a base near Norfolk, Va., and was carrying equipment to build a floating pier off Gaza’s coast to allow for aid deliveries. “Besson, a logistics support vessel, is carrying the first equipment to establish a temporary pier to deliver vital humanitarian supplies,” the military said.

But the Pentagon has said the project could take weeks to complete.

Nearly 60,000 pregnant women in the enclave are malnourished, dehydrated and lack proper health care, according to the Gazan health ministry, which has said that about 5,000 women were giving birth monthly in “harsh, unsafe and unhealthy conditions as a result of bombardment and displacement.”

The Biden administration’s plan for a pier and causeway, announced last week, could eventually help deliver as many as two million meals a day for residents of Gaza.

Some humanitarian officials have criticized the approach, saying that delivering aid by truck is far more efficient. American officials acknowledge that deliveries by sea — as well as airdrops — are not as effective as overland ones, but Israel has greatly limited aid entry into Gaza.

The Pentagon has said that one of the main military units involved in the construction of the floating pier will be the Army’s Seventh Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), and that about 1,000 American service members will work to complete it.

The Israeli military will help coordinate the installation of the pier, a spokesman for the Israeli military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said on Saturday. Shipments will be inspected by Israeli troops before they are handed off to the aid groups that will distribute the supplies, he said.

The start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan usually brings a time of religious devotion, dawn-to-dusk fasting, family gatherings and nightly feasts. But in Gaza, now in its sixth month of war, all that seems far away. The Israeli assault, which the Gazan health ministry says has killed an estimated 31,000 Palestinians, began in October after a Hamas attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people.

In a more peaceful time, the streets of Gazan cities would be packed with families buying Ramadan decorations and supplies — colorful lamps, food and sweets — and preparing for days of fasting, evenings of eating with family and nights of praying at a mosque.

“I remember the festivities of the month while walking through the market streets, with chants and praises everywhere,” said Ahmad Shbat, a 24-year-old street vendor. “Everything was available, and the mosques played a vital role.”

Muslims can be exempt from fasting for many reasons, and some in Gaza have said that the hardships of war will make it difficult to observe daylong fasts. Others say that with famine threatening, most are eating only one meal a day in any case, and that fasting will be no different from the hunger they have endured for months.

People are so hungry that some have resorted to eating leaves and animal feed. Many in Gaza have been living off little more than a native wild plant known as Egyptian mallow, commonly eaten by Palestinians.

Mr. Shbat, who was displaced from his home and is now living in a school in Jabaliya, in northern Gaza, said that Ramadan this year “won’t be pleasant, especially because we will be away from our houses and loves ones.”

“Despite it being the month of blessings, it is especially challenging this year,” he said. “The war is still raging, and there is no meaning to the month without gathering around the table with the family.”

Reporting was contributed by Gabby Sobelman, Hiba Yazbek, Ameera Harouda, Cassandra Vinograd, Helene Cooper, Gaya Gupta and Aaron Boxerman.





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