White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press conference at the White House in Washington on April 26, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Pressure is mounting on the Biden government to demand a bilateral ceasefire as the fighting between Israel and Hamas enters its second week and no clear end is in sight.
On Sunday, a group of 28 Democratic senators called for an immediate halt to the ongoing fighting in Gaza, where casualty numbers are rising and the international community is increasingly concerned about the destruction from Israeli air strikes.
“To prevent further loss of civilian life and further escalation of the conflicts in Israel and the Palestinian territories, we are calling for an immediate ceasefire,” wrote the senators.
Signatories to the statement include Sens. Cory Booker from New Jersey, Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, Dick Durbin from Illinois, Tim Kaine from Virginia, Angus King from Maine, Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, Mark Warner from Virginia, and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. King and Sanders are independents who meet with Democrats.
Palestinians gather at the site of destroyed houses after Israeli air and artillery strikes, while cross-border violence between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants continues in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021.
Mohammed Salem | Reuters
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres described Sunday’s violent conflict as “extremely appalling” and called for an immediate ceasefire.
“This latest round of violence only continues the cycles of death, destruction and despair and pushes all hopes for coexistence and peace further into the horizon,” Guterres said during a meeting of the UN Security Council.
“The fight has to stop. It has to stop immediately. Missiles and mortars on one side and air and artillery bombardments on the other must stop,” he added.
Violence increased over the weekend after Israel launched an air strike that leveled a skyscraper in the Gaza Strip. At least 42 people were killed in the deadliest strike to date in the ongoing conflict. More than 3,000 rockets have now bombed Israeli cities.
A ball of fire erupts from Jala Tower when it is destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021.
Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the punitive air strike that collapsed a 12-story building, citing news that Hamas was using part of the building to plan terrorist attacks.
“Here’s the intelligence we had,” Netanyahu told the CBS Sunday program “Face the Nation”.
“”[It’s] In this building there is a secret service of the Palestinian terrorist organization, which plans and organizes the terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. So it’s a perfectly legitimate goal, “he said.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, would not confirm whether the Biden government agrees with the assessments of the Israeli intelligence service. Instead, it reiterated the call for the violence to be de-escalated.
“The role we play is how we can help end the violence and our calculation at this point is to have these conversations behind the scenes,” Psaki said on Monday. “Our approach is calm, intense diplomacy,” she added.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden spoke separately with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Biden raised concerns about the intense fighting and the safety of civilians and journalists. He also underlined his commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as “the best way to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Monday that officials across the administration are “working around the clock” to put an end to the violence. Blinken added that US envoy Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, was on the ground in the region.
CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.