Biden Threatens Netanyahu Over Aid Worker Killings in Gaza

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call Thursday that the United States will determine its future Gaza policies based on Israel taking “immediate” and “concrete” steps to address civilian harm and the safety of aid workers.

“He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” the White House said in a statement. “He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

Biden added that the entire humanitarian situation in Gaza and strikes on aid workers are “unacceptable.”

The warning to Israel comes just days after Israel hit an aid convoy of World Central Kitchen aid workers, killing seven, including an American-Canadian citizen. The aid workers were delivering food in Gaza.

American Father Killed in Israeli Strike Was About to Leave Gaza

The Biden administration has repeatedly called on Israel to better protect civilians and allow aid to flow into the enclave, where tens of thousands have been killed since the start of the war in October. The warning comes after Biden said he was “outraged” by the deaths of the World Central Kitchen aid workers.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians,” Biden said on Tuesday of the attack. “This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult—because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians.”

The White House expects to see changes from Israel “in the coming hours and days,” White House National Security Council Communications Adviser John Kirby told reporters Thursday.

“If we don’t see changes from their side, there will have to be changes on our side,” Kirby said.

Israel, which has claimed the incident was a “mistake,” has initiated an investigation into the attack on the aid convoy.

But there are indications the attack was not just a fluke. José Andrés, the celebrity chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, has called out the attack for hitting the aid group “systematically, car by car.”

“This was not just a bad luck situation where, 'Oops, we dropped a bomb in the wrong place,'” he told Reuters, adding that World Central Kitchen had alerted the IDF of the location of the convoy and had plastered humanitarian aid signs on the roof of the convoy.

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari has since said in a statement that Israel “will get to the bottom of this and we will share our findings transparently.”

An investigation has been handed over to Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday, Hagari said, according to Reuters.

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