aftermath of strike bashir vpx
Video shows chaos and horror following Israel's latest airstrike on refugee camp in Gaza
02:23 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

President Joe Biden and his top advisers are warning Israel with growing force that it will become increasingly difficult for it to pursue its military goals in Gaza as global outcry intensifies about the scale of humanitarian suffering there.

Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken – who departed Thursday for Israel with a message on protecting civilian lives – have all explicitly pressed the case in recent private conversations with the Israelis, telling them that eroding support will have dire strategic consequences for Israel Defense Forces operations against Hamas.

Behind the scenes, American officials also believe there is limited time for Israel to try to accomplish its stated objective of taking out Hamas in its current operation before uproar over the humanitarian suffering and civilian casualties – and calls for a ceasefire – reaches a tipping point.

In fact, there is recognition within the administration that that moment may arrive quickly: Some of the president’s close advisers believe that there are only weeks, not months, until rebuffing the pressure on the US government to publicly call for a ceasefire becomes untenable, sources told CNN.

There have been no signs that Israel’s offensive is slowing. The Israeli military said Thursday it is surrounding Gaza City and “deepening” its operations there. CNN witnessed the skies of Northern Gaza illuminated by flares and explosions as the bombardment intensified late Thursday night.

Particularly jarring to Biden and his national security team, two sources familiar with the matter said, were Israeli airstrikes this week that targeted a refugee camp in northern Gaza, resulting in grim scenes of widespread destruction and deaths. The president “didn’t like this at all,” one of the sources said.

“The problem for [Israel] is that the criticism is getting louder, not just among their detractors, but from their best friends,” one senior administration official said.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus claimed the strike was targeting a Hamas commander hiding in an underground bunker and that when the complex imploded it possibly collapsed nearby buildings.

Already, protests have blocked streets in Western capitals and even interrupted a private fundraiser Biden attended Wednesday in Minnesota. “As a rabbi I need you to call for a ceasefire right now,” an audience member shouted.

Biden responded by making an explicit call for a break in the fighting: “I think we need a pause,” he said, adding later when pressed by the protester: “A pause means give time to get the prisoners out.”

The president has not established any red lines for Israel, officials insist. And up until this point, the White House has taken great pains to avoid calling for a ceasefire, arguing that doing so would only help Hamas by giving the terrorist organization time to regroup and plot future operations.

Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the relentless images of Palestinian women and children being pulled from rubble could start to narrow Israel’s ability to move forward with its current operation, according to senior administration officials.

In conversations with Netanyahu, Biden has warned that Israel will be judged harshly by the international community if it doesn