US President Joe Biden expressed strong support for the Israeli campaign in Gaza but warned the country against occupying Gaza, a territory it had withdrew from in 2005, but is now preparing to enter militarily in response to the Oct. 6 Hamas attack that left 1,400 Israelis dead.
“I think it’d be a big mistake,” Biden told CBS’ 60 Minutes when asked if Israel should occupy the enclave. “Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas and the extreme elements of Hamas don’t represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again,” he added.
Israeli airstrikes intensified on Gaza in the last 24 hours, with the death toll exceeding 2,506 people. The Lebanon front also saw an escalation on Sunday, with Hezbollah launching rockets and Israel retaliating.
Biden advised Hezbollah and Israel not to open the northern front against Israel. "Don't. Don't, don't, don't," Biden said.
The Israeli army announced in a statement Sunday that it’s creating a buffer zone on its side of the border with Lebanon in light of fire traded with Hezbollah. Due to the escalation, it read, the IDF decided to “isolate a space of up to four kilometers [2.5 miles] from our northern border with Lebanon.”
Hamas and Israel continued rocket barrages and airstrikes as Washington intensified its diplomatic efforts led by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is returning to Israel on Monday after visiting Jordan and Egypt on Sunday.
Israel said later on Sunday that it killed Hamas’ southern national security security district commander Mo’atez Eid in an airstrike.
The news follows an announcement by the Pentagon Saturday that it had dispatched a second aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean on a regularly scheduled deployment for exercises in Europe.
The White House said the Eisenhower would be available to support deterrence efforts already undertaken by the strike group led by the US’ largest carrier, the USS Ford, already in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Israeli military said it was preparing for an extensive campaign in Gaza and “the implementation of a wide range of offensive plans, which include, among other things, an integrated and coordinated attack by air, sea and land.”
“Israeli army battalions and soldiers are deployed all over the country and are prepared to increase readiness for the next stages of the war, with an emphasis on a significant ground operation,” the announcement read.
Nearly half the population of Gaza has been reportedly displaced since the start of the war a week ago.
Protests have erupted across global cities in solidarity with the Palestinians, including a 50,000-strong march in London on Saturday.
France remains on high alert and has dispatched Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna to the region.
Rina Bassist, Ezgi Akin, Beatrice Farhat, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Adam Lucente, Jack Dutton, Jared Szuba and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel contributed to this blog.
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Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023
7:30 pm: Biden warns Israel against occupying Gaza
US President Joe Biden expressed strong support for the Israeli campaign in Gaza but warned Israel against occupying Gaza, a territory it had withdrawn from in 2005. “I think it’d be a big mistake,” Biden told CBS’ "60 Minutes" when asked if Israel should occupy the enclave. “Look, what happened in Gaza, in my view, is Hamas, and the extreme elements of Hamas don’t represent all the Palestinian people. And I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again.”
Click here for our most recent updates