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Biden warns Israel against Gaza occupation

'I think that it would be a mistake for Israel to occupy Gaza again.'

President Biden warned Israel in an interview aired on Sunday not to reoccupy Gaza, his first significant public effort to restrain America’s ally in the wake of the Hamas assault that reportedly killed more than 1,300 people, including at least 29 Americans.

Biden has offered staunch support for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack and refused to criticize Israel for its retaliatory siege of Gaza, the coastal enclave controlled by Hamas, even as U.N. officials have warned of a humanitarian crisis there. But in the new interview, he cautioned against a full-scale occupation of Gaza.

“I think it’d be a big mistake,” Biden told “60 Minutes” on CBS in a conversation taped on Thursday and aired on Sunday night. “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.” But “taking out the extremists” there, he added, “is a necessary requirement.”

The president’s comments came as he was considering whether to visit Israel in the coming days to demonstrate solidarity with Israelis still reeling from the Hamas attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu extended the invitation to the president over the weekend, according to an administration official, confirming a report on Israeli television, but Biden has not decided yet whether to go at this time.