Biden says he expects Gaza crisis to end ‘sooner than later’

US president says he spoke with Israeli PM Netanyahu on Wednesday

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and expected the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians to end “sooner than later”.

It was Mr Biden's first public comment on the crisis that has claimed dozens of lives amid a barrage of rocket fire and air strikes between Israel and Gaza.

"My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory,” he said.

Israel increased its air campaign in Gaza on Wednesday, killing senior Hamas military figures.

Militants in the enclave have fired rocket barrages into Israel.

The White House said Mr Biden conveyed to Mr Netanyahu "the United States’ encouragement of a pathway towards restoring a sustainable calm".

Mr Biden "shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace", the White House said.

Mr Biden's government faced criticism for its slow response to the violence and for ignoring warnings that tension in the region was about to explode.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Mr Netanyahu and "reiterated his call on all parties to de-escalate tension and bring a halt to the violence", the State Department said.