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Biden calls Netanyahu's handling of Israel-Hamas war "a mistake," says "I don't agree with his approach"

Palestinians celebrate Eid al-Fitr amid war
Palestinians celebrate Eid al-Fitr amid war 02:15

President Biden has sharpened his criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Mr. Biden described Netanyahu's war policy as "a mistake" and called on his Israeli counterpart to agree to a cease-fire of up to two months, during which he said humanitarian organizations should have "total access" to deliver food and medicine to Gaza.

"What he's doing is a mistake," Mr. Biden told Spanish language broadcaster Univision when he was asked whether he believed Netanyahu was "more concerned about his political survival" than he was about the Israeli people's security.

"I don't agree with his approach," Mr. Biden said in the interview aired Tuesday evening. It was recorded previously, two days after Israeli forces struck a vehicle convoy carrying a World Central Kitchen charity team working to deliver food to Gazans.

The Israel Defense Forces blamed "errors in decision-making" for what it called a "grave mistake," but the charity and other humanitarian groups have dismissed that explanation and accused the IDF of deliberately targeting the WCK workers.  

"I think it's outrageous that those four, three vehicles were hit by drones and taken out on a highway," Mr. Biden told the Spanish language broadcaster. "What I'm calling for is for the Israelis to just call for a cease-fire, allow for the next six, eight weeks, total access to all food and medicine going into the country."

The president's remarks were aired by Univision on Tuesday evening just hours after Vice President Kamala Harris met the families of Americans who are among the roughly 100 hostages still believed to be held by Hamas or other groups in Gaza.

Father of Hamas hostage discusses meeting with Vice President Harris 04:56

"We need results. We need our people home," said Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son is among the remaining hostages. He voiced concern about whether Netanyahu is really serious about getting the hostages back, which the Israeli leader has insisted many times that he is, or just being able to say he defeated Hamas.

"Whatever Israel does should not cause sacrifice the second time around for the hostages," the father said after the meeting with Harris.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people and seized more than 200 hostages during its bloody Oct. 7 terror attack on southern Israel, which sparked the ongoing war. The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says Israel's military action has killed more than 33,000 people, the majority of them women and children.

Amid mounting pressure from around the world, especially in the wake of the deadly strike on the WCK workers, Israel has pulled some of its forces out of southern Gaza in recent days. But the IDF says it's for the troops to regroup and prepare for future operations, and Netanyahu has vowed to complete his mission to "destroy Hamas" in Gaza.

The Israeli leader insists the only way to do that is to send IDF forces into the last major Gazan city that has so far been spared ground operations, Rafah. For weeks Israel told Palestinian civilians to seek shelter in southern Gaza, and an estimated 1.5 million people have crammed into Rafah. Netanyahu says Hamas still has combat units operating there, which Israel must hunt down.

Netanyahu said in a Monday video address that a date was set for a ground offensive in Rafah, but he didn't share any date, and U.S. officials say they haven't been given one privately, either.

Netanyahu says date has been set for Israeli ground offensive in Rafah 05:19

"This is not the best way forward," White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday. "There are better ways to go after Hamas than Rafah."

The U.S. is continuing to work with Israel, Qatar and other regional partners on a deal for a cease-fire and the release of the remaining hostages — both the 100 still believed to be alive and the bodies of roughly 30 others who are dead.

An Israeli official told CBS News on Wednesday that Hamas had indicated to negotiators that it was unable to locate and positively identify 40 hostages sought by Israel for return in the first phase of the deal currently on the table. The group has not confirmed how many of the captives are still alive or how many it is still holding. Some of the hostages are believed to have ended up in the hands of Hamas-allied groups in Gaza.  

"The ball is in Hamas' court," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday. "The world is watching to see what it does."  

As the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in Gaza, meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a direct warning, saying if Israel doesn't allow more aid into Gaza and manage to separate Palestinian civilians from Hamas militants in its management of the war, it will "accelerate violence" and create more terrorists in the future, not make Israelis safer.

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