Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip exchanged attacks for a 10th day Wednesday despite multiple attempts by regional and international parties, including U.S. President Joe Biden, to bring about a cease-fire.
The White House said Biden, in his fourth conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since hostilities broke out last week, told the Israeli leader in a phone conversation that “he expected a significant de-escalation today on a path to a cease-fire.”
Since the fighting began May 10, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 217 Palestinians, including at least 63 children and 35 women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Hamas rocket attacks have killed at least 12 Israelis, including a 6-year-old child.
The White House declined to say what would happen if Israel continues its bombing attacks on Gaza.
“Our approach is to make sure that we do this quietly, intensively, in a diplomatic way,” the White House said.
Netanyahu earlier told foreign diplomats, “We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence.”
He also pushed back against criticism of the Israeli air campaign, saying his forces are doing their best to avoid civilian casualties. He said Israeli forces try to use “great precision” to respond to attacks, but that they cannot prevent all collateral damage.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rebuked Netanyahu, contending in a television address that Israel is carrying out “organized state terrorism and war crimes” in Gaza that are punishable under international law.
Abbas said the Palestinians “will not hesitate to pursue those who commit such crimes in front of international courts.” He is the head of the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, whose forces were driven from Gaza when the militant Hamas group seized power in 2007.
A group of United Nations human rights experts said in a statement Tuesday that Israel’s aerial attacks in heavily populated areas of Gaza “constitute indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian property.”
But the rights experts also faulted the Palestinian militants for “deliberately or recklessly” firing rockets into Israel and said the actions of both sides could amount to war crimes.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday on Twitter there is “immense human suffering and extensive damage to homes and vital infrastructure in Gaza,” and called on the international community to fund U.N. humanitarian programs in the Palestinian enclave.
France has proposed a U.N. Security Council resolution, in coordination with Egypt and Jordan, calling for a halt to the fighting.
“The three countries agreed on three simple elements: The shooting must stop, the time has come for a cease-fire and the UN Security Council must take up the issue,” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said. Macron spoke Tuesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
The United States, an Israeli ally that has veto power as one of the five permanent members of the council, has so far blocked the council from issuing a statement supporting a cease-fire. U.S. officials have said such a statement would not help diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
“Our goal is to get to the end of this conflict,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. “We are going to evaluate day by day what the right approach is. It continues to be that quiet, intensive behind-the-scenes discussion are tactically our approach at this point.”
The United Nations said it has been “actively involved” in mediation efforts to try to end the violence. In the meantime, the U.N. said it was able to send dozens of fuel trucks but no other assistance from its relief agency into Gaza.
Netanyahu, in a video message released Tuesday, said Israel dealt “unexpected blows” to Hamas and set the militant group “back many years.” He said Israel’s response to the militant attacks serves as a lesson to Israel’s enemies.
Hamas began firing rockets into Israel for what it said were Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem. Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Israel’s 21% Arab minority staged a general strike on Tuesday in solidarity with Gaza.
Source: Voice of America