The United States said on Monday that it does not believe that a genocide is taking place in Gaza, but Israel must do more to protect Palestinian civilians.

"We believe Israel can and must do more to ensure the protection and wellbeing of innocent civilians,” Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to United States President Joe Biden, said at a press briefing. “We do not believe what is happening in Gaza is a genocide.”

Sullivan said that the United States was "using the internationally accepted term for genocide, which includes a focus on intent".

Since October, Israel has been carrying out unprecedented air and ground strikes on Gaza. The attacks have killed more than 35,500 persons, including over 14,500 children.

Israel’s war on Gaza began after Palestinian militant group Hamas’ incursion into southern Israel on October 7 killed 1,200 people. The militant group had also taken over 200 persons hostage.

Sullivan said that Biden wants to see Palestinian militant group Hamas defeated. However, he said that civilians in Palestine caught in the middle of the conflict were living “in hell” and that the death and trauma they have endured are unimaginable.

On May 8, Biden said he would halt a portion of American weapon shipments to Israel if it went ahead with its plan to invade the southern city of Rafah in Gaza.

In such a scenario, the United States would continue providing defensive weapons to Israel, but would stop supplying other arms, Biden said.

On Monday, Sullivan said the United States president believed that the Rafah operation “has got to be connected to a strategic endgame that also answered the question, ‘what comes next?’”

On Saturday, Israel issued fresh evacuation orders in Rafah, forcing several displaced Palestinians to move elsewhere.

The order came amid the Israeli military’s preparations for a full-ground invasion of the city, where over 1 million Palestinians have fled amid the war on Gaza.

Rafah was considered the last refuge for Palestinians in Gaza. It was also the main point of entry for fuel before the Israeli military captured the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

The evacuations are now forcing Palestinians to return to the north of Gaza, which has been destroyed due to attacks by the Israeli military.

Also read: Arundhati Roy on Gaza: N̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ Again