Netanyahu defies Biden’s call for de-escalation

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Gaza – Agency:

US President Joe Biden told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects “significant de-escalation” in the military confrontation with the Palestinians which has claimed 227 people in Gaza, including 63 children, and wounded 1,530, according to health ministry figures and killed 12 people in Israel according to Israeli police, since May 10.

On the 10th day of the escalating violence, US President Joe Biden discussed the Gaza events with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire”. However, Netanyahu said after the phone call with Biden that he was “determined” to continue bombarding Gaza until Israel’s “aim is met”. The description of the call — the fourth between President and Prime Minister over the past week — reflected growing concern in the White House over the conflict. Biden has grown increasingly eager for the fighting to end, according to officials, but has been wary of publicly applying pressure on the Prime Minister, believing the tactic would backfire. But Netanyahu’s comments that he plans to continue the operation in Gaza until Hamas targets are taken out have strained US patience, according to officials. Biden made clear to Netanyahu on the call that international pressure would increase if the military campaign continues.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, said US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke again in the morning. “The two had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” she said. “The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.

Netanyahu says that he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met,” despite US President Joe Biden’s call for a de-escalation of hostilities in Gaza. In a statement from the his office, Netanyahu said that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president”, but said Israel will push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel”.

As diplomatic efforts intensified to stem the bloodshed, Germany said its top diplomat was heading to Israel for talks on Thursday. Netanyahu issued a tough threat against the Gaza Strip´s Islamist rulers Hamas, who Israel says has fired around 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10. “You can either conquer them, and that´s always an open possibility, or you can deter them, and we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence,” he told foreign ambassadors. “But I have to say we don´t rule out anything.” Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested Israel could reoccupy the Gaza Strip to rid the besieged enclave of Hamas.

Egyptian negotiators have also been working to halt the fighting, and an Egyptian diplomat said top officials were waiting for Israel’s response to a ceasefire offer. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he would fly to the region today (Thursday) for talks with Israelis and Palestinians.

Earlier in the day, the Israeli military said it was widening its strikes on militant targets in southern Gaza to blunt continuing rocket fire from Hamas. At least nine people were killed in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

At least 227 Palestinians have been martyred, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1,620 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed. On Wednesday, militants in Lebanon fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel, threatening to open up a new front in fighting.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and Hezbollah, which fought a monthlong war against Israel in 2006, has stayed out of the fighting for now. The rockets are widely believed to be fired by Palestinian factions based in south Lebanon. In Gaza, one of the Israeli airstrikes destroyed the home of an extended family.-

Residents su veyed the piles of bricks, concrete and other debris that had once been the home of 40 members of al-Astal family in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. They said a warning missile struck the building five minutes before the airstrike, allowing everyone to escape.

Ahmed al-Astal, a university professor, described a scene of panic, with men, women and children racing out of the building. Some of the women didn’t even have time to cover their hair with Muslim headscarves, he said.

Another strike in nearby Deir al-Balah killed a man, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter, witnesses said. Iyad Salha, a brother of the man who was killed, said the family had just sat down for lunch when the missile hit.

Among those killed Wednesday were a reporter for Hamas-run Al-Aqsa radio and two people who died when warning missiles crashed into their apartment.The Israeli military said it was striking a militant tunnel network in southern Gaza, with 52 aircraft hitting 40 underground targets.