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Trump says Israel has to get war in Gaza over 'fast' and warns it is 'losing the PR war'

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump offered a tough message to Israel over its war against Hamas on Thursday, urging the country to: “Get it over with.”

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Trump said that Israel is “absolutely losing the PR war” and called for a swift resolution to the bloodshed.

“Get it over with and let’s get back to peace and stop killing people. And that’s a very simple statement," Trump said. "They have to get it done. Get it over with and get it over with fast because we have to -- you have to get back to normalcy and peace.”

The presumptive GOP nominee, who has criticized President Joe Biden for being insufficiently supportive of Israel, also appeared to question the tactics of the Israeli military as the civilian death toll in Gaza continues to mount. Since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, Israel’s military has battered the territory, killing more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, and creating a humanitarian catastrophe.

“I’m not sure that I’m loving the way they’re doing it, because you’ve got to have victory. You have to have a victory, and it’s taking a long time," Trump said.

He specifically criticized Israel's decision to release footage of its offensive actions. Throughout the war, the Israeli military has released videos of airstrikes and other attacks against what it describes as “terrorist infrastructure.”

“They shouldn’t be releasing tapes like that," he said. “That’s why they’re losing the PR war. They, Israel is absolutely losing the PR war.”

“They’re releasing the most heinous, most horrible tapes of buildings falling down. And people are imagining there’s a lot of people in those buildings, or people in those buildings, and they don’t like it,” he added. "They’re losing the PR war. They’re losing it big. But they’ve got to finish what they started, and they’ve got to finish it fast, and we have to get on with life.”

The comments offered a vivid example of the attention Trump pays to imagery and optics as he measures the cost of war. But they also show the similarities between Trump's and Biden's positions, even as Trump has criticized Biden’s handling of the conflict, going so far as to charge that Jews who vote for Democrats “hate Israel” and hate “their religion”

Until Thursday, Biden's administration had broadly backed Israeli efforts to try to remove Hamas’ grip over Gaza, even as he called for a short term cease-fire to free hostages and surge humanitarian aid. He had also expressed concern that Israel’s operation was isolating it on the world stage.

That concern has intensified since an Israeli air strike this week killed seven World Central Kitchen humanitarian aide workers try to deliver food to Palestinians, adding a new layer of complication to Biden and Netanyahu's increasingly strained relationship.

In a phone call Thursday Biden issued a stark new warning to Israel, telling Netanyahu that future U.S. support for the war depends on new steps to protect civilians and aid workers.

Biden "made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” the White House said in a statement. He also told Netanyahu that an “immediate cease-fire is essential” and urged Israel to reach a deal “without delay."

The tougher stance comes as the administration continues to try to dissuade Israel from launching a major offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million civilians are sheltering.

Biden had issued an unusually sharp statement after the aid workers' deaths criticizing Israel for not doing more to protect humanitarian workers and civilians and for refusing to allow more food into the Gaza Strip.

Trump has long labeled himself the most pro-Israel president in the nation’s history and often notes his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

But Trump has also had a tense relationship with Netanyahu since he left the White House. Though the two were close allies for years, the former president responded with fury after the Israel leader congratulated then-President-elect Biden for winning the 2020 election while Trump was still trying to overturn the results.

In interviews for a book about his Middle East peace efforts, Trump, according to the author, used an expletive to describe Netanyahu, accused him of disloyalty and said he believed the Israeli leader never really wanted to make peace.

In the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, Trump drew rare condemnation from his GOP rivals when he lashed out at Netanyahu, saying Israeli leaders needed to “step up their game” and that Netanyahu “was not prepared” for the deadly incursion that killed some 1,200 people. More than 250 people were also taken hostages.

At the time, Trump said that he supported the country’s efforts to “crush” Hamas.

Trump was also criticized by some in Israel for comments he made to the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom last month calling for a swift end to the war.

“I will say Israel has to be very careful because you are losing a lot of the world. You are losing a lot of support,” he had warned.

___ Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Zeke Millers in Washington contributed to this report.