Middle East/North Africa

Biden sent letter to Palestinian president over ‘current situations’

President Biden sent a letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed to Hill on Tuesday, amid an outbreak of fierce military conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The letter was sent as a response to earlier correspondence from Abbas congratulating Biden on his win, the spokesperson said but declined to share details of the letter.

The correspondence is part of the administration’s “ongoing outreach with the Palestinian leadership on a range of issues of mutual interest, including ongoing efforts to de-escalate violence and restore calm,” the spokesperson continued. The letter was delivered by George Noll, the Palestinian Affairs Unit chief at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.

The press agency for the Palestinian Authority, the representative body for Palestinians in the West Bank, also announced in a post that Biden had sent Abbas a letter.

“President Mahmoud Abbas received today a letter from US President Joe Biden. The letter dealt with the latest political developments, current situations, and bilateral relations between the United States and the State of Palestine,” WAFA News Agency, the media wing for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, published on its website.

The announcement of the letter came around 9:30 a.m. local time Tuesday in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

News of the letter came as conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip escalated dramatically throughout the day Tuesday, prompting condemnation from the Biden administration over Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of hundreds of rockets into Israel, with a number of Israeli civilian casualties, injuries and damage.

The administration also spoke out against the loss of Palestinian civilians in Gaza caught up in retaliatory Israeli strikes.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a briefing with reporters Tuesday that the administration is engaged with Palestinian officials but declined to identify them.

“There has been engagement with the Palestinian authority … at the appropriate level,” he said.

Other conversations between senior officials and their Israeli counterparts have taken place over the past few days amid the escalating violence, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said senior administration officials had “spoken candidly” to Israeli officials earlier over a host of controversial Israeli policies and actions towards Palestinians. These policies and actions served as the catalyst for the outbreak of military conflict initiated by Hamas.

These actions include the since-halted eviction of Palestinian residents in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians in Jerusalem’s old city — specifically in the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam — during the final days of the holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas, which is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, controls the Gaza Strip and operates independently from the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Abbas’s Fatah party, in the West Bank.

Hamas on Monday began firing rockets that triggered air raid sirens in Jerusalem and southern Israel in retaliation for the violence occurring between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The fighting has escalated dramatically and shows no signs of calming despite international calls to de-escalate the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a response but said the campaign against Hamas “will take time.”

Updated 5:44 p.m.

Tags Antony Blinken Benjamin Netanyahu Hamas Israel Israeli-Palestinian conflict Jake Sullivan Jen Psaki Joe Biden outbreak of violence Palestine Ramallah rockets Tel Aviv us state department US-israeli relations
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