Discontent with Biden’s handling of the war between Hamas and Israel was on display in a closed-door meeting at the White House. | Trending Viral hub

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WASHINGTON – Just five minutes into a meeting with President Joe Biden, a Palestinian-American doctor who has treated severely injured patients in Gaza couldn’t bear to stay, so he left.

Dr. Thaer Ahmad, who specializes in emergency medicine, recalled becoming emotional as he talked about the many Palestinians he treated and described the scale of deaths in the six months since the war began.

“The decision to leave was a personal one,” he told NBC News in a phone interview, explaining that he wanted to show the White House that “it was important to acknowledge the pain and grief that my community was in.”

Ahmad emphasized that he wanted to “let the administration feel the way we felt the last six months and get up and walk away from them.”

He was one of six American Muslim community leaders who attended a small meeting Tuesday with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and senior administration officials at the White House.

Many others who had been invited to attend declined, according to multiple sources familiar with the disclosure, underscoring deepening tensions between the administration and the Muslim and Arab American communities over the president’s support for Israel in its bombing of Gaza. More than 30,000 people have been killed, according to health officials, since Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7 and the group still holds more than 100 hostages captive.

Another doctor who attended was taken aback when she showed Biden copies of photographs of malnourished children and women in Gaza, to which Biden responded that he had seen those images before. The problem, the doctor said, was that she had printed the photos from her own iPhone.

“This speaks volumes about the administration’s cavalier nature when it comes to decisive action toward a permanent ceasefire or, at the very least, a red line on the Rafah invasion,” Dr. Nahreen H. Ahmed told NBC. News.

Before leaving the meeting early, Ahmad handed the president a letter from an 8-year-old orphaned boy in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

“There is an incredible urgency around this,” Ahmad said, expressing deep skepticism that Israel’s military campaign can be carried out “in a sophisticated or tactical manner” that does not put innocent civilians at risk.

During the 90-minute meeting, which took place behind closed doors, Biden told attendees that he will not call for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas until all remaining hostages are freed, according to two people familiar with his comments.

The president “listened respectfully,” a third source briefed on the meeting said, and promised to continue working to “significantly increase” humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Throughout the discussion, other doctors who have spent time in Gaza spoke about their harrowing experiences, including the danger they experienced trying to help others, said a Muslim rights activist who attended the meeting. They also showed Biden and Harris photographs of injured patients, including children, the activist said.

Biden thanked leaders of the Muslim American community for attending the meeting and acknowledged that many people had expressed concerns about attending an event at the White House while so many Palestinians are suffering, these people said.

Salima Suswell, founder and executive director of the Black Muslim Leadership Council, who attended the White House meeting, said she felt Biden and Harris listened carefully to attendees and understood their perspectives.

“I thought it was important to accept the invitation to meet today with the president, the vice president and their senior administration officials, because I have been consistent about the importance of the commitment,” Suswell said. “It was important to me to let the president know that black Americans and black Muslim Americans are deeply hurt by what is happening in Gaza.”

Harris also delivered remarks that reiterated Biden’s position and appeared designed to soften criticism of Biden’s position on the war, namely that he values ​​the United States’ relationship with Israel more than that of the Palestinians. He said Biden was “sincere” about his concerns, according to an aide. She told the group that he sees how much the war and the civilian death toll are “weighing” on the president and insisted that he is “doing absolutely everything he can to end this war.”

Biden said, according to one aide, that if Israel tries to obstruct the ability to get aid to Gaza, the United States will respond and advocate for more resources to be brought to the region.

Last Thursday, the United Nations’ highest court ordered Israel to open more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into Gaza after reports that the Israeli government was blocking the arrival of vital supplies to the devastated enclave. Israeli officials have repeatedly denied obstructing aid from entering Gaza, instead blaming the UN for severe shortages of vital supplies in the strip, particularly in the north.

The president did not specify what the United States would do to ensure aid can be delivered safely, the aide said.

Just this week, seven aid workers from disaster relief charity World Central Kitchen were killed in an Israeli airstrike, adding to the 200 who have already died since the war began in October. The aid group said its convoy was hit as it left a warehouse in the Deir al-Balah area of ​​central Gaza, where the team had unloaded more than 100 tonnes of humanitarian food aid that the charity had brought to Gaza. by sea earlier in the day.

At the meeting, an aide said it appeared that Biden and Harris were careful not to discuss what is happening behind the scenes to negotiate a possible six-week ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the aide said.

Once it concluded, American Muslim community leaders left and a small group of Muslim staffers participated in a scaled-down iftar dinner with Biden, Harris and other senior administration officials.

In past years, the White House has hosted larger Ramadan-related receptions, including several Eid celebrations that attracted hundreds of guests and included public remarks by the president.

Several Arab American and Muslim American leaders have declined invitations in recent weeks, specifically citing their discomfort at participating in a celebration when so many people in Gaza face famine, two people who received invitations told NBC News.

“President Biden and Vice President Harris know that this is a deeply painful time for many in the Muslim and Arab communities,” a White House official said. “President Biden made it clear that he regrets the loss of all innocent lives in this conflict.”

Senior White House officials and Biden campaign advisers have attempted to meet with key members of the Muslim and Arab American communities in recent months, but have often received frosty receptions.

“The president and vice president will continue to engage with the Muslim and Arab American communities and listen to the voices of all those affected by this conflict,” the White House official said.

Ahmad, the doctor who left the meeting, said he plans to return to Gaza soon and is “legitimately worried that I might be killed in the process.”

If that happened, he said, “it’s hard to think” what could happen with a “2,000-pound bomb that the United States gave to Israel.”

“That my government would have had anything to do with it, I just hate it,” he said. “That’s the kind of thoughts that go through my mind.”

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