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Biden says he has ‘no confidence’ in Palestinian death count

US president Joe Biden said Hamas was ‘hiding behind Palestinian civilians’ in Gaza. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: US president Joe Biden said on Wednesday he has “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using” for the death toll in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, where the health ministry says over 6,500 have been killed in Israeli attacks.

Biden was asked at a White House press conference whether the death count, which the ministry says includes some 2,700 children, meant Israel was ignoring US appeals to reduce civilian deaths in its bombardment of the coastal enclave.

“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.

“(The) Israelis should be incredibly careful to be sure that they’re focusing on going after the folks that (are) propagating this war against Israel. And it’s against their interest when that doesn’t happen,” Biden added.

“But I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”

Biden did not say why he was sceptical of the Palestinian figures.

Reuters has been unable to independently verify casualty figures in the fighting, which began with an Oct 7 Hamas rampage in southern Israel that Israeli authorities say killed 1,400 people.

Palestinians reject the notion that the Gaza death count is inaccurate.

“Journalists have confirmed the high number of casualties, and countless videos coming out of Gaza every day show mangled bodies of Palestinian women and children,” CAIR executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Biden said that Hamas was “hiding behind Palestinian civilians” in the densely populated enclave, putting “an added burden on Israel while they go after Hamas.”

Biden added: “Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians.”