By Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday suggested that Israel’s military response in Gaza has been “over the top,” adding that he is working to achieve a sustained pause in fighting.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” Biden told reporters at the White House, in some of his sharpest criticism to date of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He added that he has been pushing for increased humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians and to get a temporary pause in place to allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

“I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire,” Biden said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s gotta stop.”

Israel began its military offensive after Hamas militants from Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Gaza’s health ministry says more than 27,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed, with thousands more feared buried under rubble.

There has been one truce to date, lasting a week at the end of November.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Sandra Maler and Diane Craft)

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