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Biden says Gaza hospital 'must be protected'

Biden says Gaza hospital 'must be protected'

World

US President Joe Biden urged Israel on Monday to protect Gaza's main hospital.

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Joe Biden urged Israel on Monday to protect Gaza's main hospital as heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas raged around the complex.

"It's my hope and expectation that there will be less intrusive action relative to the hospital," Biden told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if he had expressed concerns to Israel on the issue.

"The hospital must be protected."

Biden, who spoke as he was signing a women's health research initiative alongside First Lady Jill Biden, added that he was "in contact with the Israelis" on the matter.

He said that a deal for the "release of prisoners" was still being negotiated with the help of the Gulf state of Qatar.

A surgeon with Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the medical charity group, said that hundreds of people were stranded in the Al-Shifa hospital complex enduring "inhuman" conditions.

Israel argues that its Hamas enemies built their military headquarters under the Al-Shifa hospital -- a charge Hamas denies -- while UN agencies and doctors in the facility warned that a lack of generator fuel was claiming lives, including those of infants.

The World Health Organization in the Palestinian territories said early Monday that at least 2,300 people -- patients, health workers and people fleeing fighting -- were inside the crippled Al-Shifa facility.

'FIREFIGHTS'

Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan later confirmed Washington, which has firmly backed Israel over its offensive against Hamas, had raised the issue with its ally.

"We do not want to see firefights in hospitals," he told a briefing. "We want to see patients protected, we want to see hospitals protected."

He added: "We have spoken with the Israeli government about this and they have said they share that view that they do not want to see firefights in hospitals."

Sullivan also said the United States wanted to see "considerably longer pauses -- days, not hours" in the fighting.

The White House said last week that Israel had agreed to daily four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting to let civilians out of northern Gaza and aid in.

Biden was meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the White House on Monday.

Widodo said Sunday he would bring Biden a "message" from a joint summit of Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh at the weekend which condemned Israel and called for a ceasefire.

The Israeli army has pushed on with its military campaign, determined to destroy the movement whose gunmen it says killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages in the country's worst ever attack when they stormed across the militarized border from Gaza on October 7.

But Israel is facing intense international pressure to minimize civilian suffering amid its massive air and ground operations, which Hamas authorities say have killed 11,180 people, including 4,609 children.
 




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