Biden calls for temporary pauses in strikes on Gaza in call with Netanyahu

White House official says US President called on Israel to protect Palestinian civilians 'to the maximum extent possible'

People search amid the rubble for survivors following an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. AFP
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US President Joe Biden held a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, during which they discussed “temporary and localised pauses” in strikes on the Gaza Strip, the White House said.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Mr Biden wants to see more aid enter Gaza and more Americans leave the besieged enclave.

“We're going to continue to advocate for temporary and localised pauses in the fighting,” Mr Kirby told reporters on a call.

“And we consider ourselves at the beginning of this conversation, not at the end of it.

He added that Mr Biden and Mr Netanyahu had agreed to talk again in the coming days.

The call came as more Americans left the Gaza Strip on Monday, as fewer than 30 aid lorries entered the besieged enclave in the past 24 hours.

“So aid is getting in – not enough, [and] people are coming out – not enough,” Mr Kirby said.

The Biden administration has said that it does not back a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying it would only benefit Hamas.

Mr Kirby said that during the call, the President emphasised the need to protect Palestinian civilians and reduce civilian harm “to the maximum extent possible”.

Israel began the aerial bombardment of Gaza and, more recently, launched a ground invasion after Hamas gunmen attacked Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostage.

More than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including about 4,100 children, according to Palestinian health authorities.

The high death toll is increasing pressure on the Biden administration to find a solution to the conflict.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and warned that Gaza was becoming a “graveyard for children”.

More than 300 Americans have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing to Egypt since Wednesday, Mr Kirby said, and more are expected to evacuate in the coming days.

During the call, Mr Biden and Mr Netanyahu also discussed the occupied West Bank, where more than 140 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military.

Mr Biden is concerned about the rise in settler violence against Palestinians, Mr Kirby said, and called for the perpetrators to be held accountable.

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Updated: November 06, 2023, 8:32 PM