Biden defends Israel incursion into al-Shifa hospital against Hamas ‘headquarters’

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President Biden on Wednesday put his support behind Israel’s incursion into al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, saying that Hamas had committed the first war crime by making the health facility a command center of its military operations. 

“You have a circumstance where the first war crime is being committed by Hamas by having their headquarters, their military, hidden under a hospital. And that’s a fact, that’s what’s happened,” the president said at a press conference following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California. 

Biden said he was absolutely confident that what U.S. and Israeli officials have described as a command center around and underneath the hospital was true, even as he declined to detail that intelligence and evidence that he had.

Israeli forces on Wednesday published photos and videos from inside the hospital in the Gaza Strip purporting to show numerous weapons caches hidden behind an MRI machine, in the closets of hallways and in rooms in the hospital. 

Israel said that it had battled and killed Hamas fighters as part of their incursion into the medical facilityl, but that it was also bringing medical experts, Arabic speakers, medical supplies like incubators and baby food.

Reuters reported that witnesses inside the hospital and who spoke to the newswire described an at times tense situation as Israeli troops moved between buildings, with sporadic shooting heard but no reports of anyone hurt inside the grounds.

The White House earlier on Wednesday said Israel’s carrying out a military operation into the hospital was not the “main focus” of a phone call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. But Biden on Wednesday said that he had discussed with the Israelis the need to be “incredibly careful” as they entered the health facility.  

“You have a circumstance where, you know, there is a fair number of Hamas terrorists. Hamas has already said publicly that they plan on attacking Israel again, like they did before, cutting babies heads off to burning women and children alive,” the president said, detailing some of the gruesome atrocities that Hamas carried out in its Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel. 

“Israel did not go in with large number of troops, did not raid and did not rush anyone down,” the president said, citing discussions he’s had with his national security team of how the events unfolded. 

The president further said he’s “mildly hopeful” that negotiations to free hostages being held by Hamas will yield results, an estimated 240 — babies, children, women, the elderly and sick — that Hamas kidnapped in their assault on Israel last month. 

Still, Biden gave no end timeline for Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of Palestinians have been killed amid Israel’s military assault on the narrow strip of land, and more than one million told to evacuate from the zone of conflict. 

The humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip is wearing down Americans’ support for Biden’s position.

But the U.S. has held back calling for Israel to agree to a ceasefire, in particular as negotiations for hostages continue. 

Biden has instead pushed for tactical humanitarian pauses to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and the exit of foreign nationals, and the potential safe transfer of hostages. Still, the U.S. on Wednesday abstained from a United Nations Security Council Resolution that called for a humanitarian ceasefire, opposing that the measure did not condemn Hamas. 

“With regards to when is this going to stop? I think it’s going to stop when Hamas no longer maintains the capacity to murder and abuse and, and just do horrific things to the Israelis,” Biden said.

“They plan on doing the same thing again, what they did on the 7th. They’re going to go in, they want to slaughter Israelis. They want to do it again.”

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