September 28, 2023

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 227 Palestinian deaths, including 64 children and 38 women, 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.

In a statement after speaking with Biden, Netanyahu said he was “determined to continue this operation until its goal is achieved – bring peace and security back to the citizens of Israel,” according to the Jerusalem Post and other Israeli media outlets.

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 most recent round of fighting marked the worst outbreak of violence since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. Biden faces growing pressure from his own party to do more to end the violence.

More than 130 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives “vigorously” signed a letter on Wednesday calling on the president to “lead courageously and take decisive action to end the violence” by putting both sides on the negotiation of an armistice.

“Too many people have already died. More will perish unnecessarily if America does not act with the immediacy that this violence requires,” said the letter signed by the House Democrats.

In Tel Aviv, Netanyahu briefed foreign diplomats and ambassadors on the worsening violence and reiterated previous claims that the Israeli military “is trying to” attack “those who attack us with great precision”.

“There is no army in the world that does more than the Israeli army, in the Israeli security services and in the Israeli intelligence service to prevent collateral damage,” said Netanyahu.

Netanyahu added that Hamas is “deeply embedded in civilian areas” to use civilians as human shields. According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, diplomatic representatives from the United States, the European Union and ambassadors from Russia, China, India, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Canada and Italy attended the briefing.

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 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 in the ongoing conflict to date.

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.