Biden tells Netanyahu he wants Gaza ‘de-escalation’ today

Washington: US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to immediately wind down fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip that’s killed more than 200 people, a White House spokeswoman said.

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“The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.

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It was Biden’s fourth call with Netanyahu since hostilities broke out between Israel and Hamas last week. The president has come under pressure from Democratic congressional allies to push Israel toward a cease-fire in the conflict.

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“The United States is working tirelessly through various levels of government to express support for a cease-fire, get to a place of sustainable calm, and build a path forward to addressing the underlying causes of conflict,” Jean-Pierre said.

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“The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, the Israelis progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” she added.

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Jean-Pierre declined to say whether Biden had previously pushed Netanyahu on a cease-fire. The president first expressed his public support for such a move on Monday.

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More Israeli air strikes battered the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel. The Palestinian death toll rose to 219, while 12 Israelis have been killed since fighting broke out May 10.

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Egypt has proposed a cease-fire that would start at 6 a.m. Thursday, local time, according to Israel’s Channel 12 TV. The report couldn’t be confirmed, and the Israeli government declined to comment on it. Spokespeople for various Palestinian groups declined to comment or denied the report.

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Separately, Al Arabiya said a high-level Egyptian delegation is heading to the West Bank to reaffirm Cairo’s commitment to helping with a cease-fire, citing people it didn’t identify.

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Air strikes

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Israeli air strikes have pummeled Gaza and killed several Hamas commanders and intelligence officials. Hamas – which governs Gaza and is considered a terrorist group by the U.S., European Union and other nations – has fired more than 3,700 rockets at Israeli territory.

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Rockets fired from Lebanon struck Israel for the first time on Wednesday since the fighting began, with one intercepted and three others “most likely” having fallen in open territory, according to the military, which responded with artillery fire.

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Two previous launches from Israel’s northern neighbor, home to Iran-backed Hezbollah militants and Palestinian factions, fell short. Even so, the attacks from Lebanon have raised the spectre of another front opening.

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Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Israeli operation has set back Palestinian militants “many years” and that other enemies “will learn the lesson” from the heavy price Gaza gunmen have paid. On Wednesday, he told foreign diplomats that Israel can either “deter” or “conquer” Hamas, the Ynet website reported.

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