President Joe Biden Demands Netanyahu Declare ‘Immediate Ceasefire’ After Humanitarian Workers Killed

President Joe Biden threatened to pull U.S. support for Israel unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares an “immediate ceasefire” and takes further steps to curb the casualties of civilians in Gaza.

Biden made the demand Thursday in a phone call with the Israeli leader — their first call since the bombing of a humanitarian convoy by the Israeli Defense Forces, which killed seen World Central Kitchen aid workers — marking an escalation in the president’s posture toward the Jewish state.

President Biden had previously told Chef Jose Andres, founder of World Central Kitchen, that the attack left him “heartbroken” and that he would pressure Israel to change its military operations in Gaza. Israel contends the strike was an accident. One American citizen was killed in the incident.

“President Biden emphasized that the strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable. He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” stated the readout of the call provided by the White House.

“He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps,” added the statement. “He underscored that an immediate ceasefire is essential to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation and protect innocent civilians, and he urged the Prime Minister to empower his negotiations to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home.”

John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman, declined to elaborate on what conditions the president set for Israel if it doesn’t change its operating procedures in regard to Gaza.

“What we are looking to see and hope to see here in the coming hours and days is a dramatic increase in humanitarian assistance getting in, additional crossings opened up, and a reduction in the violence against civilians and certainly aid workers,” explained Kirby. “In the coming days, we will be looking for concrete, tangible steps.”

“I won’t get ahead of what the Israelis will or won’t announce,” continued Kirby. “And it’s not just about the announcement of concrete steps and changes in their policies, but it’s the execution of those announcements and those decisions and implementing them. And so, we obviously will watch closely and monitor how they do and on the commitments that they make. And as I said earlier, if there’s no changes to their policy in their approaches, then there’s going to have to be changes to ours.”

Officials at the White House also said Netanyahu and Biden discussed threats posed by Iran and the commitment of the U.S. to help Israel defend itself from those threats. The call is reported to have lasted about an hour.

The president has been under growing pressure as civilian casualties in Gaza continue to mount. Tuesday, the president hosted Muslim American leaders at the White House for closed-door discussions on the Gaza situation. Still, officials in the White House declined to say if the discussions were successful.