After his Oval Office remarks on Monday, during the establishment of the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, U.S. President Joe Biden was asked if he had expressed specific concerns to Israel about Gazan hospitals.
“Well, you know, I have not been reluctant in expressing my concerns [about] what’s going on, and it is my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital,” Biden told a reporter. “There is an effort to take this pause to deal the release of prisoners, and that’s being negotiated as well with—the Qataris are engaged, and so, I remain somewhat hopeful. But the hospital must be protected.”
During the White House press briefing later in the day, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was asked to elaborate on the president’s latter remark.
“When the president says that hospitals must be protected, what does the president—what does the United States want to see done with Al Shifa Hospital, in particular, and the Hamas facilities that you now point to open-source intelligence saying lie under it?”
Sullivan allowed that the question “points up the complexity of this conflict and the added burden that Israel is facing as it goes against murderous terrorists, who continue to say their goal is the absolute destruction of the State of Israel.”
To Sullivan, Israel must deal with a terror organization “that takes civilian hostages, including little children,” that “uses civilians as human shields,” that “uses civilian infrastructure, even hospitals, in the most cynical way possible—that is, as fighting positions, as military operation centers.” And yet, Israel has to do so “at the same time, not wanting to go assaulting hospitals in firefights that could put innocent people, who are getting lifesaving medical care, in the crossfire.”
“There are not easy answers to this question,” Sullivan said. “But this is the complexity; this is the burden that the Israeli Defense Forces are facing as they conduct their operations. And our position is that Israel has the right to go after Hamas, but it does face this added burden. And that burden does not lessen its responsibility to act according to the laws of war.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, released a statement thanking Biden for his “clear support” of Israel.
He noted, however, that Israel already goes to great lengths to protect civilians.
“Please, President Biden, don’t criticize Israel about its actions in and around the Hamas terrorist command centers on the campuses of Gaza hospitals,” he stated. “Tell Hamas leaders that they we be held responsible for every civilian casualty.”
“Urge Qatar, who you identify as America’s ally, to bring direct pressure on Hamas to stop its crimes against humanity, including setting up their military command and control beneath the hospitals and to release all of the hostages now,” he added.