Gaza violence continues despite Biden call for 'significant de-escalation' today

Israeli prime minister does not immediately heed Biden's tougher stance, as US backlash grows over president's handling of crisis

US President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on May 19, 2021 en route to Rhode Island. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm
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US President Joe Biden told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expected a "significant" de-escalation in hostilities in Gaza on Wednesday, but the Israeli leader pledged to push ahead with the military offensive.

"The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire," the US embassy in Israel said after the fourth call between the two since the crisis began last week.

While Mr Biden's comments were the toughest public pressure he has so far put on Israel, Mr Netanyahu appeared to brush them aside and reports of sirens and strikes on Gaza continued into the night on Wednesday.

The Israeli Prime Minister's office said he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met".

Mr Netanyahu said he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president” but Israel would push ahead “to return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel".

Mr Biden has come under increasing pressure from his own Democratic Party to push harder for a ceasefire.

He and Mr Netanyahu also held "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", the embassy said.