Biden avoids seeking ceasefire in Gaza in call with Netanyahu

AFP , Ahram Online , Sunday 24 Dec 2023

US President Joe Biden, in a conversation, late Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, refrained from asking for a ceasefire or to stop the ongoing war in Gaza.

Israeli army troops are seen near the Gaza Strip border, in southern Israel, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023. AP


Instead, Biden pressed Netanyahu to protect civilian lives in Gaza, the White House said, as the country's forces mounted fresh military strikes in the territory.

The conversation came a day after the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding "safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale," though it stopped short of calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza.

"The President emphasized the critical need to protect the civilian population including those supporting the humanitarian aid operation, and the importance of allowing civilians to move safely away from areas of ongoing fighting," the White House said in a statement.

Biden told reporters at the White House earlier in the day that he had a "long talk" with Netanyahu, which he described as "a private conversation."

In response to a follow-up question, Biden said, "I did not ask for a ceasefire."

The White House statement said the two leaders discussed the "objectives and phasing" of Israel's invasion of Gaza as well as the importance of securing the release of all remaining captives.

Israel says 129 of captives remain in Gaza.

A truce last month saw the release of 105 captives, including 80 Israelis released in exchange for 240 Palestinians, mainly women and children, held in Israeli prisons under vague political charges.

Friday's much-delayed UN resolution came after days of diplomatic wrangling, and sidestepped a US veto only by avoiding a call for a ceasefire. 

Israel's war on the strip has killed at least 20,057 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a "humanitarian ceasefire" is the only way for aid "to be effectively delivered."

It ratchets pressure on Israel to allow greater humanitarian access and gives the United Nations a bigger role in coordinating the delivery of aid into Gaza.

With the north in rubble, many Palestinians have been forced to evacuate toward the overcrowded south, where Israel has intensified its bombardment.

Early on Sunday, Hamas said new strikes had hit Jabalia and Khan Younis in the north and the south of Gaza.

The Israeli war has sparked a "catastrophic" humanitarian crisis. UN figures say 1.9 million people (80 percent of the population) have been displaced in the strip.


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