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Speaking to Netanyahu, Biden noted that “this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” according to a call issued by the White House. He also raised “concerns about the safety of journalists and the need to ensure their protection”.
He also condemned “indiscriminate attacks” by Hamas “against cities across Israel”.
The call also came after Biden came under pressure from Congress Democrats to take a tougher stance on Israel. In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Senator Robert Menendez (DN.J), one of the most pro-Israel Democrats on Capitol Hill, condemned Israel’s recent strikes.
“I am deeply concerned about reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza, and about Israeli attacks on buildings housing international media,” Menendez said, calling on the Israeli government to “practice the conscientious practice of giving continue warning of his attacks in order to reduce the risk of harm to the innocent. “
Biden also spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday in his first conversation with Biden as president. Biden called on Hamas to cease rocket fire on Israel, which aired dramatic images throughout the week, some from the skyscraper Israel targeted on Saturday.
The strike on the office building has been condemned as “an incredibly worrying development” by AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt. In a statement, Qatar-based al-Jazeera said he saw the operation as “a clear act to deter journalists from fulfilling their sacred duty of informing the world and reporting events on the ground.” The International Press Institute said the strike was “a gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed standards”.
The building was evacuated after the Israeli military warned of an impending strike. The Israeli military said, without producing evidence, that Hamas intelligence was using the building and accused the group of using journalists as human shields. Netanyahu said the building was evacuated following a warning that the country is “doing everything it can” to avoid civilian casualties, according to a call made to Biden by the Israeli government.
However, in a speech broadcast late Saturday in Israel, Netanyahu promised to continue the military campaign “as long as necessary”.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also placed a call with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on Saturday, which according to a US reading was largely in line with the higher-level discussions.
Biden briefed both Netanyahu and Abbas on US diplomatic efforts and regional engagement through to the end the conflict and expressed to both “their common wish that Jerusalem should be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds”, so the statement of the White House.
After the outbreak of violence, which began and quickly spread in Jerusalem, US diplomat Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs, was dispatched to the region. An Egyptian intelligence officer told the AP on Saturday that Egyptian mediators do not expect a ceasefire ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Sunday.
On Saturday, the US-Islamic Relations Council said it would boycott the traditional White House Eid celebration due on Sunday to protest the actions of the Biden government amid escalating violence.
The Muslim advocacy group said it was “incredibly disappointed and deeply concerned” with the government’s response to the violence. “President Biden has the political power and moral authority to stop these injustices. We urge him to take the victim’s side, not the victim’s side, “added CAIR’s National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
In a Friday statement on the occasion of Eid, Biden said: “Palestinians – including in Gaza – and Israelis alike deserve to live in dignity, security and security. No family should fear for their safety in their own home or place of worship. We think most of the children in these societies who are trauma from a conflict that is far beyond their control. My government will continue to involve Palestinians, Israelis and other regional partners to work towards sustainable calm. “