U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday that "too many" Palestinians killed in Gaza have been innocent civilians, renewing concern over Israel pressing ahead with a military operation in the city of Rafah following air strikes.
"Too many of the over 27,000 Palestinians killed in this conflict have been innocent civilians, including thousands of children," Biden said during a joint press conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the White House.
Biden also noted that hundreds of thousands of people have no access to food, water or other basic services and many families have lost not just one but many relatives.
"It's heartbreaking," he said.
"Every innocent life lost in Gaza is a tragedy. Just as every innocent life lost in Israel is a tragedy as well.
"We pray for those lives taken, both Israeli and Palestinian, and for the grieving families left behind," he added.
Biden also said the U.S. is working on a hostage deal between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, which would "bring an immediate and sustained period of common good to Gaza for at least six weeks, which we could then take the time to build something more enduring."
A major military operation should not proceed in Rafah "without a credible plan for ensuring the safety and support of more than one million people sheltering there," he said, reiterating previous U.S. calls.
Noting that many people in Rafah have been displaced as they fled the violence, Biden said "they need to be protected."
"We've also been clear from the start. We oppose any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza," he stressed.
Jordan's King Abdullah II also expressed concern over Israel's plan to attack Rafah, saying "it is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe."
"The situation is already unbearable for over a million people who have been pushed into Rafah since the war started," he said, adding they cannot stand by and let this continue.
"We need a lasting cease-fire now. This war must end," he stressed.
"We must urgently and immediately work to ensure the sustainable delivery of sufficient aid to Gaza through all possible entry points and mechanisms," he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the army to develop a dual plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah, home to more than 1.4 million residents seeking refuge from the war, and to defeat the remaining Hamas "battalions."
Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah as Israel pounded the rest of the enclave since Oct. 7, following a cross-border incursion by Hamas.
The ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed at least 28,340 people and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities.
The Israeli war on Gaza has left 85% of the territory's population internally displaced 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.
In an interim ruling in January, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel's government to desist from genocidal acts and to take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.