In the wake of reports that the death toll of Palestinians had climbed to over 1000 from the recent hostilities between Israel and Gaza, President-elect Joe Biden, in his first public remarks on the conflict, called for an immediate de-escalation of the situation and a ceasefire, while disregarding UN estimates of Palestinian deaths.
Biden’s comments followed reports by the United Nations (UN) that the estimated death toll of Palestinians had climbed to 1000, with a further 6,000 Palestinians injured in the violence. The UN also reported that more than 500,000 people had been displaced through displacement in the conflict.
Biden, who will be inaugurated as president later this month, made his remark during a press conference held on Saturday. Speaking on the violence in the Middle East he said “I believe the massive number of casualties, especially among children and civilians, in the conflict underscores an urgency for a cease fire.”
He added that “the US must explain its assessment of the death toll, and its role in ending the current hostilities.”
While Biden disparaged the violence and called for a ceasefire, he did not make any direct reference to the reported Palestinian death toll. His comments came after a report from Israeli military sources which put the figure at 470, significantly lower than the UN’s estimate.
The omission of the reported Palestinian death toll from Biden’s remarks has sparked criticism amongst certain circles, with Palestinian critics noting that his disregard for the UN’s estimates of Palestinian deaths may undermine the credibility of the US in the Middle East.
The President-elect’s remarks come at a time when the US’s presence in the Middle East has been diminished with the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Regardless of Biden’s position on the reported Palestinian death toll, the US has made its position clear in calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. At the same time, the US has also made clear that it is willing to work alongside the international community to facilitate a long-term peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. It remains to be seen how Biden’s administration will address the issue in the near future.