President Biden on Wednesday cast doubt on the official death toll coming out of Gaza from a Hamas-run organization and acknowledged that the deaths of civilians are part of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
At a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Biden was asked about data from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry that indicated more than 6,000 Palestinians have died since Israeli forces responded to terrorist attacks launched by Hamas on Oct. 7, which killed more than 1,400 Israelis.
“I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed. I’m sure innocents have been killed, and it’s the price of waging a war,” Biden said.
“I think… the Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that are propagating this war against Israel. And it’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen,” he continued. “But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
Biden’s comments came a day after John Kirby, a White House spokesperson on national security issues, and press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested any information coming out of the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry should be treated with skepticism.
Still, the president’s comments at the press conference drew criticism from some outside groups.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the group was “deeply disturbed and shocked by the dehumanizing comments that President Biden made about the almost 7,000 Palestinians slaughtered by the Israeli government over the past two weeks.”
Waleed Shahid, a former spokesperson for the progressive Justice Democrats, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Biden’s comments are likely to appear in a future Republican-funded ad targeting voters in Michigan and Georgia.
The president has steadfastly supported Israel and its right to respond with force in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attacks earlier this month. But he and other administration officials have been increasingly outspoken in recent days about the need to protect civilians and minimize the risk to innocent individuals.
That concern is particularly prevalent in Gaza, where millions of people are already lacking access to adequate food, water and medicine and where humanitarian aid has been slow to arrive.