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Biden tells Netanyahu U.S. supports ceasefire as Israel, Hamas conflict escalates


US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the vaccination in the East Room at the White House in Washington, DC on May 17, 2021.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden in a Monday afternoon call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for a ceasefire as fighting between Israel and Hamas enters a second week.

“The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The President welcomed efforts to address intercommunal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem,” according to a White House readout of the call.

Biden also called on Israel to ensure the protection of innocent civilians amid the conflict.

On Sunday, Israel conducted a strike that leveled several homes in the Gaza Strip. The strike, the deadliest yet in the ongoing conflict, killed at least 42 people. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 rockets bombarded Israeli cities.

Netanyahu defended a punishing airstrike Saturday that collapsed a 12-story building housing international media, citing intelligence that Hamas was using a portion of the building to plan terror attacks.

A member of the Palestinian civil defence walks amidst the rubble of a building in Gaza city which housed the Intaj Bank linked to the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip, on May 15, 2021.

Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images

Netanyahu said that the building’s occupants, which included the Associated Press, broadcaster Al-Jazeera and other media agencies, were given an hour’s notice to evacuate before the strike.

“Here’s the intelligence we had,” Netanyahu told CBS Sunday program “Face the Nation.”

?[It’s] an intelligence office for the Palestinian terrorist organization housed in that building that plots and organizes the terror attacks against Israeli civilians. So, it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” he explained.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not confirm on Monday whether the Biden administration agreed with Israeli intelligence assessments. She instead reiterated calls for a de-escalation in violence.

“Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy,” Psaki told reporters during a press briefing. “That is how we feel we can be most effective.”

Palestinians assess the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes, in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, on May 14, 2021.

Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images

During the call with Netanyahu on Monday, Biden also discussed engaging with other partners and allies in the region in order to help de-escalate tensions.

Earlier on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that officials across the administration are “working around the clock” to bring an end to the violence.

The nation’s top diplomat has discussed the ongoing conflict with his counterparts in Israel, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.

Blinken added that U.S. envoy Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary of State for Israel and Palestinian affairs, was on the ground in the region.

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