Biden says he’ll communicate to Netanyahu as stress mounts on the US to demand a ceasefire on violence between Israel and Hamas
President Joe Biden with Vice President Kamala Harris (R) discusses the COVID-19 response and vaccination program in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on May 17, 2021.
Nicholas Comb | AFP | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Monday he would speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the fighting between Israel and Hamas enters its second week with no clear end in sight.
Biden said that after speaking with Netanyahu, he had more to say about the violence that is unfolding.
On Sunday, a group of 28 Democratic senators called for an immediate halt to the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.
"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 United States 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 have to stop," he added.
The violence increased over the weekend when Israel carried out an air strike on Sunday that leveled several houses in the Gaza Strip. At least 42 people were killed in the deadliest strike in the ongoing conflict to date. 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, Netanyahu defended Saturday's punitive air strike in which a 12-story building filled with international media collapsed, citing news that Hamas was using part of the building to plan terrorist attacks.
Netanyahu said residents of the building, which included the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera broadcaster and other media outlets, were evacuated an hour before the strike.
"Here's the intelligence we had," Netanyahu told the CBS Sunday program "Face the Nation".
"(It is) an intelligence agency for the Palestinian terrorist organization, located in this building, that plans and organizes terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. So it is a perfectly legitimate target," he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not confirm whether the Biden government agreed with the Israeli intelligence agency's assessments. 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."
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden spoke separately with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Biden expressed 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.
Correction: This article has been updated to take into account that the attack that killed 42 people destroyed several homes in the Gaza Strip on Sunday. The attack on a high-rise housing international media agencies took place on Saturday.