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The White House is walking back Biden's statement that he saw photographic evidence of beheaded children

Sarah Gray,Erin Snodgrass,Joshua Zitser   

The White House is walking back Biden's statement that he saw photographic evidence of beheaded children
  • On Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he saw "pictures of terrorists beheading children."
  • Hours later, a National Security official walked back those comments.

President Joe Biden addressed Jewish community leaders at a round table on Wednesday, where he referenced a gruesome claim made by the Israel Defense Forces.

"It matters that Americans see what is happening," Biden said, according to Axios reporter Barak Ravid. "I have been doing this a long time — I never thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children."

Later in the evening on Wednesday, a National Security official told NPR that Biden was referring to media reports when he made that remark. CNN reported Wednesday night that a White House official said that neither Biden nor the administration had seen these images and that Biden was referring to comments from Israeli officials and reports in the media.

Insider reached out to the White House to clarify Biden's remarks. The White House did not immediately respond.

The gruesome claim about babies

A journalist with Israeli broadcaster i24News on Tuesday was the first to claim that babies had been killed in the Israeli kibbutz Kfar Aza, initially saying "40 babies, at least, were taken out on gurneys." The journalist, Nicole Zedeck, later clarified the statement, saying that "soldiers told me they believe 40 babies/children were killed."

Later on Tuesday, IDF spokesman Major Nir Dinar told Insider that Israeli soldiers came across the bodies of babies, including some that had been decapitated, at the Kfar Aza kibbutz near the Israel-Gaza border.

Dinar said the IDF "can not confirm any numbers," but described the situation at the kibbutz as a "massacre" in which children were "brutally butchered in an ISIS way of action."

Insider has not been able to independently verify these claims.

The claim sparked outrage and skepticism on social media. On Wednesday, after pressure to provide evidence of the grisly claim, Dinar told Insider the IDF would not further investigate the claims and that doing so would be "disrespectful for the dead."

"We're not going to investigate the condition of bodies and even if we did we won't comment publicly about the condition of our civilians' bodies. And babies," he said.

Dinar said the claim of decapitated babies was made based on what soldiers on the ground had relayed to him and others in the military.

"Let your readers know that a soldier who handled the bodies, that was his claim," he said. "I don't have an evidence and I'm not looking for one."

On Saturday, the militant group Hamas launched coordinated attacks on Israel, attacking civilians in border communities and at a music festival, leaving at least 1,200 Israelis dead and taking an estimated 150 captive.

Israel has since launched a punishing counterattack on Gaza, leveling neighborhoods and cutting off food, water, fuel, and electricity to the roughly 2.3 million people living in the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip. As of Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian authorities said 1,100 people in Gaza have been killed, including at least 260 children.

Biden and Douglas Emhoff, the second gentleman of the US, who is Jewish, addressed Jewish community leaders on Wednesday to reaffirm US commitment to Israel and discuss combatting antisemitism.

At least 14 Americans were killed during the attack, per US officials, and at least 20 are missing.

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