Biden speaks with Netanyahu, Abbas as Mideast conflict escalates
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has expressed “strong support” for Israel’s strikes in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on its territory, but raised concerns about civilian casualties and the protection of journalists on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The White House said Biden on Saturday also shared his “grave concern” about intercommunal violence within Israel and escalating tensions in the West Bank. Biden and Netanyahu discussed Jerusalem, with Biden saying it should “be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
On Saturday:Israeli airstrikes in Gaza kill 10, destroy media offices for AP, Al Jazeera
Biden also held his first call since taking office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas, the authority’s rival, to stop firing rockets into Israel.
The White House says Biden “expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve” and highlighted the resumption of U.S. aid to the Palestinians under his administration.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa says Abbas updated Biden on the escalations across the Palestinian territories and said he was working to halt “the Israeli aggression against our people and to reach a cease-fire.”
The report says Abbas also told Biden that “security and stability will be achieved when the Israeli occupation ends,” adding that Palestinians are ready and willing to work toward peace with international mediators.
AP offices in Gaza destroyed:‘The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza’
Qatar meets with Hamas
On the Hamas side, Qatar’s foreign minister has met with a top Hamas official.
That’s according to a statement by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday. It said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in the capital, Doha.
The Foreign Ministry said Sheikh Mohammed “stressed the need for the international community to act urgently to stop the repeated brutal Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza.”
There was no mention of the Israeli strike that toppled a Gaza tower that was home to offices of both The Associated Press, Doha’s Al-Jazeera satellite news network and others.
Meanwhile, the Arab League chief said Saturday that Arab states’ ambassadors to the United Nations are trying to rally international support for Palestinians amid Israeli attacks on Gaza. Ahmed Aboul Gheit called upon the U.N. Security Council to “fulfill its responsibilities” in holding Israel accountable in a session scheduled on Sunday to discuss the violence.
Cease-fire talks ongoing, Egypt says
Efforts to reach a cease-fire between Israel and the Gaza militant groups are ongoing and have gained a push with the arrival of a U.S. envoy to Tel Aviv, according to an Egyptian intelligence official.
U.S. diplomat Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, is in the region to try to resolve the escalation.
The official said Saturday that Egypt and other mediators hope that the U.S. will pressure Israel to end the fighting.
The official said it’s up the U.S. “to order Israel to stop such disastrous” actions ” and added “the situation has started to get out of control in the occupied Palestinian territories,” referring to protests in the West Bank, Jerusalem and other areas.
He says the mediators do not expect a cease-fire before the U.N. Security Council meeting Sunday.
The official says Egypt is now seeking an hours-long lull to evacuate severely wounded people from Gaza. He says Egypt is pushing for such a humanitarian pause overnight as ambulances are waiting on the Egyptian side of the border.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.