Wednesday, May 19, 2021 11:13 pm
By Cecilia Ologunagba
U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation today” on the path to a ceasefire in the conflict in Gaza.
The White House said Biden told Netanyahu in a call that the two leaders had on the state of events in Gaza and Israel’s progress in addressing the conflict.
It was their fourth conversation since the violence erupted between Israel and Hamas nine days earlier.
“President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today. The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements.
“They also discussed the ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States.
“The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” the White House said in a readout of the call.
Earlier at a briefing, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We have had over 60 calls, from the president on down, with senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other leaders in the region.
“The president has done this for a long time, for decades, he believes this is the approach we need to be taking. He wants to make sure we end the violence and the suffering we have seen for the Palestinian and Israeli people,” Jean-Pierre added.
Biden had also told Netanyahu earlier in the week that the U.S. supported a cease-fire amid a call from 28 Democratic senators for an immediate end to the violence.
“The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The President welcomed efforts to address inter-communal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem,” according to a White House readout of that call.
Biden also called on Israel to ensure the protection of innocent civilians amid the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Israeli leader, in a statement on Wednesday, thanked Biden for his support, but said he was determined to continue the operation until its objective was achieved – to restore quiet and security to the citizens of Israel.
Biden had faced pressure to speak out against the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, as the number of Palestinian civilians killed or wounded far outpaces the number of Israeli victims hurt or killed by Hamas rocket attacks.
Biden was met with protests in a visit to Dearborn, Michigan, on Tuesday, which has a large Arab-American population, where he spoke about the conflict for several minutes with Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is a Palestinian-American.
The Israeli assault on Gaza continued overnight into Wednesday, with the Israeli military saying it struck dozens of underground Hamas targets.
Hamas and its allies in turn fired at least 50 rockets from Gaza into Israel, some of which fell short, the Israeli military said.
Hamas also laid out its terms for a ceasefire on Wednesday, with officials saying it would stop firing rockets only if Israel met two conditions: Israeli forces and police must never enter the al-Aqsa mosque, and Palestinians living in a disputed neighborhood in east Jerusalem must not be evicted by Jewish settlers.