Biden says Netanyahu could be prolonging Gaza war for political aims

U.S. President Joe Biden meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden said Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu may be stalling on ending the war in Gaza for political reasons, according to an interview with Time magazine released on Tuesday.

The comments in the May 28 interview were made a few days before Biden detailed a proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, and as the Israeli prime minister struggles with deep political divisions at home.

Asked whether he thought Netanyahu was prolonging the war for his own political reasons, Biden said: "There is every reason for people to draw that conclusion."

Biden, who has been pushing for an end to the nearly eight-month war, also said it was "uncertain" whether Israeli forces have committed war crimes in Gaza.

Last month, the International Criminal Court's prosecutor in The Hague requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense chief, as well as three Hamas leaders, over alleged war crimes.

Israel launched an air and ground offensive in Gaza last October vowing to destroy the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas after it attacked inside Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies. Around 120 hostages remain in Gaza.

The Israeli assault has killed more than 36,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities there, who say thousands more bodies are buried under rubble.

Opinion polls show most Israelis support the war but blame Netanyahu for the security failures when Hamas gunmen rampaged through Israeli communities near Gaza on Oct. 7, and would vote him out if there were an election.

Mass street protests have become weekly events, drawing tens of thousands demanding the government do more to bring home hostages seized by Hamas in Oct. 7 and calling for Netanyahu to go.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Peter Graff)