May 20, 2024

The White House denied on Tuesday that President Biden had set any “red lines” for Israel in its campaign against Hamas in Gaza but warned again that Israel should not attack the city of Rafah, the southernmost city in the enclave, without protections for more than a million people sheltering there.

“The president didn’t make any declarations or pronouncements or announcements,” said Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, referring to an interview Mr. Biden gave over the weekend in which he was asked whether he had a “red line” Israel should not cross in its prosecution of the war.

In the interview, with MSNBC, Mr. Biden rebuked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, saying that “he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost” and that “he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel.”

Mr. Netanyahu later dismissed that contention as “wrong,” and on Tuesday he again defended Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian casualties. Speaking by video to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group based in Washington that is usually referred to as AIPAC, he said that Israel’s allies “cannot say you support Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas and then oppose Israel when it takes the actions necessary to achieve that goal.”

Mr. Biden, while trying to increase the pressure on Mr. Netanyahu, has insisted that U.S. support for Israel will remain steadfast. Mr. Sullivan, who met on Tuesday with Israel’s ambassador, Michael Herzog, declined to discuss reports that Mr. Biden, if Israel proceeded with the Rafah operation, might impose restrictions on how Israel can use the arms the United States is supplying it.

“We’re not going to engage in hypotheticals about what comes down the line, and the reports that purport to describe the president’s thinking are uninformed speculation,” Mr. Sullivan said.

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