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Biden stresses commitment to Israel but says there needs to be a path to a Palestinian state

Pres. Biden: The 2023 60 Minutes Interview
President Joe Biden: The 2023 60 Minutes Interview 13:33

With thousands dead in Israel and Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas' deadly attack, President Biden believes there's still a path toward a two-state solution. 

He said Hamas, the terrorist organization behind the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, needs to be eliminated, but that there needs to be a Palestinian state. Given last weekend's terrorist attacks, President Biden says a two-state solution is not possible right now.

"But I think Israel understands that a significant portion of Palestinian people do not share the views of Hamas and Hezbollah," Mr. Biden said.

Is it time for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas?

More than 1,300 people in Israel were killed after Hamas militants smashed through a border wall in Israel the morning of Oct. 7, murdering crowds at a concert, families in their homes and people in the street. At least 155 people were taken captive by Hamas to Gaza, the Israeli military said Sunday. 

Israel has struck back with the largest bombardment of Gaza ever. In Gaza, the Health Ministry said Sunday that the Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 2,670 people, including 724 children, and left more than 9,600 others wounded.   

Mr. Biden said there's a fundamental difference between the attacks.

"Israel is going after a group of people who have engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust. And so I think Israel has to respond. They have to go after Hamas," he said. "Hamas is a bunch of cowards. They're hiding behind the civilians."

He said Israel would do everything in its power to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.

The situation in Gaza

Gaza is 25 miles long and an average of 5 miles wide. Around 2 million people live in the strip of land. Around half are children. Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S., is the official government. 

Israel severely limits Gaza's economy, so most residents are destitute. Now, Israel has cut off food, fuel, electricity and some water. On Friday, Israel ordered 1 million Gazans to evacuate south. Israeli troops began gathering at the Gaza border as the United Nations warned of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

American officials have been in talks with Israel and Egypt about establishing a humanitarian corridor in the area and getting humanitarian supplies into Gaza, Mr. Biden said. 

"We're also talking to Egyptians [about] whether there is an outlet to get these children and women out [of] that area at this moment," he said. 

Mr. Biden said he was confident Israel would follow the rules of war.

"I'm confident that there's going to be an ability for the innocents in Gaza to be able to have access to medicine and food and water," he said. 

What is America's role in the war between Israel and Hamas?

Thirty Americans have been killed, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Sunday, and 13 Americans remain unaccounted for.

"I'm saying we're going to do everything in our power to find those who are still alive and set them free," Mr. Biden said. 

On Friday, he spoke with the families of missing Americans.

"I think they have to know that the president of the United States of America cares deeply about what's happening — deeply," Mr. Biden said. 

The president said the U.S. is "working like hell" to secure the return of American hostages.

"[The] most important thing is ending this brutality and to hold those who committed it accountable," he said.

Mr. Biden has ordered two aircraft carrier strike groups into the Mediterranean. 

There are about 900 U.S. troops in Syria on a counterterrorism mission since 2015, but the president doesn't think U.S. troops will be needed in the new Middle East war. 

"Israel has one of the finest fighting forces in the country," he said. "I guarantee we're going to provide them everything they need."

Security concerns outside of Israel

The threat of terrorism in the United States has increased because of the situation in the Middle East, Biden said. He told "60 Minutes" that on Thursday morning, he met with people from Homeland Security and the FBI about preventing any threats in the U.S. 

"We're making a major effort to make sure that doesn't happen," Mr. Biden said. 

On Iran, Mr. Biden says there is no clear evidence they had foreknowledge of or helped plan the Hamas attack.

He also shared a message for Hezbollah, the powerful Islamist militia to Israel's north, and Iran. 

"Don't," he said, warning them against crossing the Lebanon border and escalating the war. "Don't, don't, don't."

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