Biden 'outraged' by Israeli strike that killed aid workers in Gaza

Updated

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday he was "outraged and heartbroken" by the killing of seven World Central Kitchen humanitarian workers, delivering some of his strongest criticism of Israel since the start of its war with Hamas.

"This conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed," Biden said in a statement. "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.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House (Alex Wong / Getty Images file)
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House (Alex Wong / Getty Images file)

"Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians," he added.

On Monday, an Israeli airstrike killed seven humanitarian workers from the relief organization World Central Kitchen, including a dual U.S. citizen. More than 200 aid workers have been killed in the war since it began on Oct. 7, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.

Biden added that he would "continue to press Israel to do more to facilitate" humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

The president's statement — his first comments about the aid workers who were killed Monday — comes as he faces growing criticism from progressives, Arab Americans and Muslims over his handling of the war. Some critics have urged Americans to “abandon Biden” at the ballot box or vote "uncommitted" in primaries to protest the administration's actions.

Criticism of Biden’s handling of the war has been especially stark in states like Michigan, a swing state that has a large Arab American population. It could be critical part of a path to the White House. Biden won Michigan narrowly in 2020, while Donald Trump won it narrowly in 2016.

Earlier Tuesday, Biden called José Andrés, the high-profile chef who founded World Central Kitchen, "to express that he's heartbroken," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a daily briefing.

World Central Kitchen announced that it was pausing aid efforts in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Israel Defense Forces had "unintentionally hit innocent people," adding that "we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again."

More than 32,900 people have died in Gaza since the war began, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. About 1,200 people in Israel were killed on Oct. 7, according to the Israeli government. About 240 Israelis were kidnapped, and Israel has said that more than 100 hostages remain in Gaza.

Biden has previously criticized Israel's handling of the war and said more needs to be done to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

When one of his speeches was interrupted last week by pro-Palestinian protesters, Biden said "they have a point," adding that "we need to get a lot more care into Gaza."

Biden has also supported public rebukes of Netanyahu. After Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., delivered a speech last month sharply criticizing Netanyahu and calling for new elections in Israel, Biden praised the remarks.

"He made a good speech, and I think he expressed a serious concern shared not only by him but by many Americans," he told reporters.

Separately, Biden said in an MSNBC interview last month that he believed that Netanyahu was "hurting Israel more than helping Israel."

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