Palestinians claim that more than 7,000 people have so far been killed in Israeli airstrikes
US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he has “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using” regarding the death toll in Gaza, as the Hamas-operated health ministry claimed that more than 7,000 people had been killed in the Israeli bombardment.
“What they say to me is I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed,” the American leader said at a press conference in the White House. “I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging war.”
Israel has undertaken an unprecedented aerial bombardment of Gaza in recent weeks in retaliation for the October 7 attack on its territory by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, during which about 1,400 people – mostly civilians – were massacred, according to official Israeli sources.
Israeli air and artillery strikes have killed in excess of 7,000 people in the densely populated coastal enclave, Palestinian officials say, with nearly 3,000 of those being children. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that the intention of his military is to eradicate Hamas from Gaza. A ground offensive is also expected to take place.
In his comments on Wednesday, though, Biden warned that any military action within Gaza must ensure that civilian casualties are kept to a minimum.
“[The] Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that [are] propagating this war against Israel,” Biden said. “And it’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen.”
“Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians,” the US president said.
Biden added: “But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.” He did not elaborate on why he skeptical on the death toll figures reported by Hamas-led institutions in Gaza.
Biden’s comments were swiftly condemned in the US by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, which is headquartered in Washington, DC, said it was “deeply disturbed” by Biden’s statement and called on him to issue an apology.
“Journalists have confirmed the high number of casualties, and countless videos coming out of Gaza every day show mangled bodies of Palestinian women and children,” CAIR’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a statement posted to the group’s website on Wednesday.