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Biden tells Netanyahu killing aid workers 'unacceptable;' says U.S. policy hinges on reforms

In a phone call after the Israeli killing of seven aid workers -- which Israel says was a mistake -- Biden urged Netanyahu to "announce and implement a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers," a White House statement said on Thursday.

Agencies and A News AMERICAS
Published April 04,2024
(AA File Photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden told Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that the killing of aid workers in Gaza is "unacceptable," and said during a telephone call Thursday that future U.S. policy will depend on his counterpart's implementation of major reforms.

Biden "emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable," the White House said in a statement.

The comments come after Israel carried out strikes Tuesday on a humanitarian convoy in central Gaza that killed seven aid workers in what the group's founder called a "direct attack on clearly marked vehicles whose movements were known by the Israel Defense Forces."

The White House said Biden "made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers."

"He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel's immediate action on these steps," it said.

The president further threw his weight behind an immediate cease-fire to halt the violence in the coastal enclave "to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians. He implored Netanyahu "to empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home," it said.

Hamas said earlier Thursday that there is still no progress in indirect talks with Israel on a cease-fire deal because Tel Aviv is "intransigent," and has rejected every proposal that has been put forward.

The talks, which are being mediated by Egypt and Qatar with U.S. support, are seeking to broker a truce in exchange for the release of hostages that remain in Hamas captivity following an Oct. 7 cross-border attack.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive across Gaza in retaliation for the attack, which killed less than 1,200 people and led to roughly 250 hostages being taken back to Gaza as captives. Roughly 130 are still being held.

Nearly 33,000 Palestinians have since been killed and 75,577 injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities. Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel is accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which last week asked it to do more to prevent famine in Gaza.