President Joe Biden says that he has "no confidence" in the death toll that has been provided by the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.
Biden made the remark on Wednesday, Oct. 25, during a joint press conference that he held with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
During the question and answer portion of the event, Biden was asked about the death toll provided by the Gaza Health Ministry amid the ongoing Israel-Palestine war.
According to the transcript provided by the White House, a reporter asked the president:
And if I may, very quickly — in the 18 days since Hama- — Hamas killed 1,400 Israelis, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli forces have killed over 6,000 Palestinians, including 2,700 chil- — children. You’ve previously asked [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to minimize civilian casualties. Do these numbers say to you that he is ignoring that message?
In his response, Biden completely rejected the premise of the reporter's question, namely, the idea that the Gaza Health Ministry's death figures are in any way accurate.
"What they say to me is 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.
He continued, "I think we should be incredibly careful. I think — well, not 'we' — the Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that are the pr- — propagating this war against Israel. And, it’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen."
Biden concluded his remark by saying directly that he does not trust the Gaza Health Ministry's death toll.
"But, I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using," Biden said.
Biden, since Wednesday, has faced criticism for the above response. And, on Thursday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was forced to address this criticism.
He did so, according to the Washington Examiner, after a reporter asked him whether Biden was going to apologize and whether he, Kirby, thinks that Biden's remark was "insensitive" or "harsh."
"What’s harsh — what’s harsh is the way Hamas is using people as human shields. What’s harsh is taking a couple of hundred hostages and leaving families anxious, waiting, and worrying to figure out where their loved ones are. What’s harsh is dropping in on a music festival and slaughtering a bunch of young people just trying to enjoy an afternoon," Kirby said.
He continued by saying that he "could go on and on," and, to some extent, he did.
But, Kirby added:
[B]eing honest about the fact that there have been civilian casualties and that there likely will be more is being honest because that’s what war is. It’s brutal. It’s ugly. It’s messy. The president also said that yesterday. That doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it doesn’t mean that we’re dismissing any one of those casualties — each and every one is a tragedy in its own right.