White House issues statement regarding Biden’s phone calls to Israeli and Palestinian leaders

Washington, May 16, 2021: In a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president Joe Biden has expressed his “grave concern” over violence in the Gaza strip while separately telling Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas that Hamas must “cease firing rockets.”

After six days of intense violence in the region, Biden expressed his “strong support” for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by “Hamas and other terrorist groups,” in his call with Netanyahu, while also emphasizing his clear concern over the deadly flare-up and casualties on both sides.

According to a White House statement, “He condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel.”

The President also raised concerns about the safety of journalists after Israeli air strikes on Saturday flattened a building in Gaza housing The Associated Press and other international media outlets. In a phone call with AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt, Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered “unwavering support for independent journalists and media organizations around the world,” noting the “indispensability” of reporting in conflict zones, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Biden, who up to now has said little publicly about the heightened violence, voiced US support for a negotiated two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He made the same point in a separate phone call with president Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, the White House said.

Biden in his first call with Abbas since taking office, also “stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself,” in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Gantz, according to a readout. Austin “strongly condemned the continued onslaught of attacks by Hamas and other terrorists groups targeting Israeli civilians,” it said, adding that the secretary had “shared his view on the need to restore calm.”

Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing 10 members of an extended family, as Palestinian militants fired back barrages of rockets. Clashes also swept the occupied West Bank.

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