Biden, in phone call with Netanyahu, supports Israel’s right to self defence

Washington, May 18: US President Joe Biden, in a telephonic call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” against indiscriminate rocket attacks and encouraged him to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians, the White House has said.

Biden welcomed efforts to address inter-communal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem, the White House said in a readout of the call.

During the phone call on Monday, Biden reiterated his firm support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” against indiscriminate rocket attacks, it said.

He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians, it said.

The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza, the White House said.

“The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed the US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” said the readout.

Palestinian militant group Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets over Israel during the past seven days, pushing more than half of Israel’s population into shelter houses and Israel has carried out hundreds of devastating retaliatory attacks in Gaza.

More than 200 people have been killed in the recent escalation in the region, including a caregiver from India.

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who is travelling right now, also spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and discussed America’s efforts to bring an end to the violence, which has claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children, said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

“Blinken also expressed deep concern at the inter-communal violence. The two discussed the path forward, and the Secretary noted that the United States would remain engaged with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and other regional stakeholders as part of our diplomacy to ease tensions and put an end to the hostilities,” Price said.

During her daily news conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that over the weekend, Biden spoke with the leaders of both Israel and Palestine.

“And in those calls, he stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel and affirmed, again, Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks. As I would note from the reports, there have been more than 3,000 rockets that have been shot from Hamas into Israel over the last several days,” she said.

Biden also expressed his concern that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children.

He raised his concern about the safety of journalists, including those who had to leave the building where The Associated Press was based – and reinforced the need to ensure their protection, she said.

The goal of the Biden administration, she said, is to reduce the violence and bring an end to the conflict on the ground.

“There are times, in diplomacy, we’ll need to keep those conversations quieter, where we won’t read out every component of it. But that is our objective, and that is the prism through which every action and every comment is being made,” Psaki added.

Last week, an Israeli airstrike targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other international media outlets. AP’s president and CEO Gary Pruitt said the agency was “shocked and horrified” at the strike. (PTI)