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Biden scales down Ramadan ceremony amid Gaza outcry

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the White House had adjusted its format for Ramadan events
— Washington (AFP)

US President Joe Biden has downsized the traditional Ramadan event at the White House amid tensions over his support for Israel's offensive in Gaza, officials said Tuesday.

Muslim leaders will meet Biden "to discuss issues of importance to the community", but asked for there to be no fast-breaking dinner, known as iftar, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Instead, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will host a small prayer and iftar after the meeting with several senior Muslim administration officials, Jean-Pierre told a daily briefing.

US media reported that a number of Muslim groups had declined invitations to a dinner marking Ramadan, viewing it as offensive to do so when famine is looming in Gaza.

"Community leaders expressed the preference of doing a meeting, a working group meeting," Jean-Pierre said. "We listened, we heard and we adjusted the format to be responsive."

Biden has faced protests and mounting domestic anger for providing key US ally Israel with military aid for its offensive in the Gaza Strip after Hamas's October 7 attacks on Israel.

With the Palestinian death toll mounting and aid only trickling in to Gaza, Democrats fear the issue could harm Bidens' chances of reelection in November.

Biden has recently stepped up pressure on Israel to reduce civilian casualties, with the United States last week infuriating its ally by abstaining on a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, allowing it to pass.

Since the Bill Clinton administration, the White House has each year hosted either an event to mark the Eid al-Fitr feast -- which ends the fasting month of Ramadan -- or a meal breaking the dawn-til-dusk fast.

Biden has until now followed the tradition.

The only US president not to do so was Donald Trump, who had a history of anti-Muslim rhetoric and issued a ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries.