U.S. President Joe Biden speaks out on COVID-19 response and vaccination in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on May 17, 2021.
Nicholas Comb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a phone call Wednesday that he was expecting “significant de-escalation today on the way to a ceasefire,” the White House said.
It was their fourth conversation since the violence broke out between Israel and Hamas nine days ago.
Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip have resulted in at least 219 Palestinian deaths, according to the authorities there. Israel has said more than 3,400 rockets bombed its cities. At least 12 people have died in Israel.
“The President has informed the Prime Minister that he is expecting significant de-escalation on the way to a ceasefire today,” the White House ad read.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks during a briefing with ambassadors to Israel at a military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 19, 2021.
Sebastian Scheiner | Reuters
The latest round of fighting marked the worst outbreak of violence since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. On Tuesday, the European Union became the youngest international power to call for a ceasefire as the civilian death toll in Gaza rises.
The dramatic escalation of tensions followed protests against the possible eviction of Palestinian families from a neighborhood in East Jerusalem by the Israeli Supreme Court. In Jerusalem on May 7, Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians’ thrown stones near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, before a trial three days later in an evacuation case. As tensions increased, the Supreme Court delayed the hearing on the right-wing Israeli case.
Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike on a building in Gaza City on May 18, 2021.
Mohammed Salem | Reuters
“We have received over 60 calls from the President with senior leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other leaders in the region,” Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Assistant Secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“The president has been doing this for a long time, for decades, he believes this is the approach we need to take. He wants to make sure we end the violence and suffering we have seen for the Palestinian and Israeli people” said Jean -Pierre added.
When asked for further details of the call, Jean-Pierre said she would “let the formal ad” speak for itself “.
Biden, who is due to speak to the country’s newest Coast Guard officers on Wednesday, told Netanyahu earlier this week that the US was backing a ceasefire when 28 Democratic senators called for an immediate end to the violence.
“The president reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The president welcomed efforts to crack down on inter-municipal violence and calm Jerusalem,” said a White House reading.
People look at an unexploded missile dropped by Israel in the neighborhood of al-Rimal while Israeli fighter jets continue to conduct air strikes in Gaza City, Gaza, on May 18, 2021.
Ashraf Amra | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Biden also urged Israel to ensure the protection of innocent civilians during the conflict.
On Sunday, Israel went on strike that leveled several houses in the Gaza Strip. At least 42 people were killed in the deadliest strike to date in the ongoing conflict.
Netanyahu defended a punitive air strike on Saturday that collapsed a 12-story building filled with international media. Hamas used part of the building to plan terrorist attacks.