Biden condemns Israeli settler attacks in occupied West Bank

Biden expresses doubts about Gaza death toll accuracy, while Israel prepares for a possible ground invasion in response to the ongoing crisis.

Israel Makes Preparations for Possible Ground Invasion

United States President Joe Biden has called for an immediate halt to the escalating attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. The increase in settler violence against Palestinians has been observed in the wake of the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 and Israel's ongoing bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Reports from Palestinian authorities have indicated that some Palestinians have lost their lives due to attacks by Israeli settlers. Rights organizations have documented incidents where settlers have set cars on fire and assaulted small Bedouin communities, compelling them to relocate to other areas.

President Biden has unequivocally stated that these attacks by what he referred to as "extremist settlers" must cease. He emphasized, "It has to stop. They have to be held accountable. It has to stop now."

It is important to note that settler attacks had been on the rise for several months prior to the recent surge in hostilities between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas. The current escalation began with the October 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel, leading to a significant loss of life and the capture of hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

Since the attack, Israel has imposed a comprehensive siege on Gaza and conducted extensive military operations, resulting in casualties, as reported by Palestinian authorities. Simultaneously, tensions have escalated in the occupied West Bank, where Israel has conducted mass arrests, intensified military raids, and where settlers have carried out attacks on Palestinians, displacing some communities from their land.

The West Bank Protection Consortium, comprising various non-governmental organizations and donor countries, including the European Union, has reported that hundreds of Palestinians have been forcibly displaced due to settler attacks.

While President Biden expressed his concern that settler attacks exacerbate an already perilous situation, he did not specify the measures the United States might take to press Israel to curtail these attacks, which have sometimes occurred in the presence of Israeli soldiers.

Biden Expresses Skepticism About Gaza Authorities' Reported Death Toll

The U.S. president has raised doubts about the accuracy of the death toll provided by Hamas authorities in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict. President Biden acknowledged that he believes innocent lives have been lost, which is a regrettable consequence of warfare. This statement has drawn criticism from some who argue that it reflects a perceived lack of empathy toward Palestinians. Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, expressed this sentiment on social media, suggesting that President Biden's remarks confirm his previous assessment of the President's ability to empathize with Palestinians.

Israel Makes Preparations for Possible Ground Invasion

Biden also mentioned that he has not directly requested assurances from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the delay of an anticipated ground invasion into Gaza until hostages are released.

“What I have communicated to him is that if there is an opportunity to safely secure the release of these individuals, that should be the course of action. It's ultimately their decision,” Biden stated during a news conference. “However, I did not issue a demand. I simply advised him that if it is a viable option, it should be pursued.”

Earlier on the same day, Netanyahu announced that the timing of an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza would be determined by the government's special war cabinet, but he refrained from disclosing specific details regarding the operation's timing or other related information.

“We have already eliminated thousands of terrorists, and this is just the beginning,” Netanyahu declared in a televised statement. “At the same time, we are making preparations for a potential ground invasion. I won't delve into the specifics of when, how, or how many. I also won't disclose the intricate considerations we are deliberating, most of which remain undisclosed to the public, as it should be.”

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