Biden speaks with Israel’s Netanyahu amid spiraling conflict with Hamas
President Biden has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid an outbreak of deadly violence between Israel and Hamas.
“I had a conversation for a while with the prime minister of Israel, and, I think, my hope is that we’ll see this coming to conclusion sooner than later,” the president said during remarks to the press about the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president said his national security and defense staff have been in “constant contact” with their counterparts in the Middle East, including the Israelis but also the Egyptians, Saudis and Emiratis.
Egypt, which maintains a border with the Gaza Strip, previously helped implement a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls the blockaded territory. The group has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 1997.
“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” Biden said.
An official readout of the call later provided by the White House said Biden told Netanyahu that the administration is engaged with Palestinian officials and other Middle East allies such as Jordan and Qatar. Both countries have also helped negotiate cease-fires in the past.
“The two leaders agreed to maintain the close consultation between their teams, which has included consistent engagement by their respective foreign ministers, defense ministers, chiefs of defense, and national security advisors, and to stay in touch personally in the days ahead,” according to the readout.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday also spoke to Netanyahu, expressing U.S. support for Israel’s defense but noting the “ongoing violence in Jerusalem” and the need for both Israelis and Palestinians to live in safety and security.
The administration has dispatched its senior official for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, Hady Amr, to Israel to engage with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on efforts to de-escalate the conflict.
Rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians erupted into open warfare on Monday when Hamas started launching rockets into Israel.
The rocket fire from Hamas was retaliation for since-halted plans by Israel to evict Palestinian families from homes in east Jerusalem and clashes with police over Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Since Monday, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets indiscriminately into Israel targeting Jerusalem, southern cities, Tel Aviv and its surrounding area. A handful of Israelis — both Jews and Arabs and including children — have been killed from the rocket fire that was not intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Israel has responded with punishing airstrikes in the Strip that have targeted Hamas militants but killed scores of Palestinian civilians, including children.
Updated at 5:19 p.m.