Israel-Palestine conflict: Biden calls Netanyahu and Abbas in push for peace

US president also reaffirms commitment to two-state solution to decades-long dispute

US President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, May 13, 2021. Reuters
US President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris, speaks at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, May 13, 2021. Reuters

Joe Biden, the US president, has spoken to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a new diplomatic push to end the conflict between Israel and militant group Hamas, during which at least 145 Palestinians and 10 Israelis have died.

"The President reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. He condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel," read a statement from the White House regarding the call with Mr Netanyahu, echoing a long standing US position against any attacks on its Israeli ally.

But Mr Biden differed starkly with Mr Netanyahu on the issue of a lasting solution to the violence, expressing support for a two-state solution and "his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom and economic opportunity that they deserve."

In 2019, Mr Netanyahu announced that Israel was considering annexing the occupied West Bank.

Under Mr Netanyahu's government, restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement have also continued, curtailing economic opportunity for Palestinian residents of occupied territory.

Mr Biden also held his first call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

Mr Abbas reportedly told Mr Biden that “security and stability will be achieved when the Israeli occupation ends,” adding that Palestinians are ready and willing to work toward peace with international mediators.

Mr Biden said that diplomatic efforts would continue with "partners in the region", and that "this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children."

At least 41 children in Gaza have died in the conflict, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, as Israeli airstrikes target Hamas militants in the heavily built up enclave.

Two Israeli children have also been killed by Hamas rockets.

On Saturday, Israel created more controversy by bombing the shared media offices of regional TV network Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.

The site had been evacuated following an Israeli warning one hour before the strike and an Israeli military statement later claimed the site had been used by "Hamas intelligence".

On the media office bombing, Mr Biden expressed "concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection."

The current conflict has also seen mob violence in Israeli cities, with rival gangs of roaming extremists attacking mosques and synagogues.

In the city of Lod, which has been badly affected by community violence, the mayor warned Israel was descending into "civil war".

"The President shared his grave concern about the intercommunal violence across Israel. He welcomed the statements by the Prime Minister and other leaders opposing such hateful acts and encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm," Mr Biden said.

The statement concluded that the two leaders discussed "their shared desire for Jerusalem to be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds. The President voiced his concern about violent confrontations in the West Bank."

Updated: May 16, 2021 12:50 AM

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