Biden implores Israel for military offensive in Gaza: ‘Focus on saving civilian lives’

President Joe Biden urged Israel to “be more careful” in its military campaign in the Gaza Strip, reiterating his warnings days after saying the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu runs the risk of losing global support.

“I want you to focus on how save civilian livesnot stop going after Hamas,” Biden told reporters on Thursday.

The president’s comments marked a new US push to persuade Israel to reduce the scope of its military strikes and adopt a vision for a postwar Gaza that includes the possibility of a Palestinian state. Biden spoke as U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan travels to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia to lay out his administration’s goals.

Sullivan met with Netanyahu early Thursday and pressed him to shift to “lower intensity operations at some point in the near future,” spokesman John Kirby said at a news conference. Biden’s top security adviser plans to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Friday, according to a US official.

Biden has made increasingly urgent calls for Israel to exercise restraint in its offensive in Gaza following the October 7 Hamas attack. Thousands of Palestinian citizens have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory strikes, prompting growing calls for a ceasefire in the United States and abroad.

In the Hamas raid on October 7, some 1,200 Israelis were killed. Since then, Israel has launched constant daily bombings on the Gaza Strip, governed by Hamas, where more than 18,000 people have been murdered, the vast majority of them children and women. 1,200 Palestinians have also died in the West Bank, where there is no Hamas presence, in attacks by Israeli soldiers and settlers. 63 journalists and media workers have also died in Gaza due to the bombings.

The president on Tuesday described the campaign Israeli bombings as “indiscriminate” and said that while the United States and its European allies continue to support Israel, “They are starting to lose that support.”

Biden also criticized Netanyahu’s right-wing government for rebuking calls to support a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, saying the prime minister was further eroding international support for Israel and hindering normalization efforts with the Arab world.

Before traveling to Israel, Sullivan met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The United States had been discussing a broad agreement for the Saudis to establish formal ties with Israel in exchange for security guarantees from the United States and guarantees from the Israelis on the preservation of the possibilities of a Palestinian state.

Those talks were derailed by the attack by Hamas, which only the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group.

Convincing Israel to move toward a two-state solution after the war will be a difficult task for Biden, not least because of Netanyahu’s opposition. Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose role is largely ceremonial, said Thursday that considering the idea while the nation’s grief over the Oct. 7 attack is still fresh is a failure.

“What I want to urge is that you don’t just say ‘two-state solution.’ Because? Because here there is an emotional chapter that must be dealt with. My nation is in mourning. “My nation is traumatized,” Herzog said in an interview with The Associated Press.