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Selasa, 18 Mei 2021

Biden, Netanyahu at odds over Israel-Hamas ceasefire - Sydney Morning Herald

By Matthew Knott
Updated

Washington: US President Joe Biden says he supports a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a major shift from his previous position that Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks coming from Gaza.

Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his views in a phone call on Tuesday (AEST).

At odds over ceasefire: Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu.

At odds over ceasefire: Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit:AP

“The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” a White House summary of the leaders’ phone call said.

Biden also “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians,” according to the summary.

But Netanyahu’s office told Israeli media that in the call, the PM told Biden he wants to complete all the goals of the Gaza operation before a ceasefire.

Netanyahu said on US television on Sunday that he did not foresee an imminent end to the conflict.

“We’re trying to degrade Hamas’ terrorist abilities and to degrade their will to do this again,” he told CBS.

“So it’ll take some time. I hope it won’t take long, but it’s not immediate.”

Palestinian civil defence members search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on May 16.

Palestinian civil defence members search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on May 16.Credit:Getty

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The Israeli military said on Tuesday that Hamas and other Palestinian groups had fired about 3400 rockets from Gaza - 90 of them overnight - and that there had been 65 air and artillery strikes against Hamas’ tunnels, as well as private homes and offices.

The military said attacks on Gaza would continue through the day.

The strikes toppled Gaza’s Kahil building, which contains libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University. Clouds of dust hung over the site, which had been reduced to piles of concrete rubble and tangled power lines.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the overnight strikes.

At least 212 Palestinians have been killed in heavy airstrikes so far, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Ten people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, have been killed in the ongoing rocket attacks launched from civilian areas in Gaza toward civilian areas in Israel.

General strikes have planned for Tuesday (Israel time) in Arab towns within Israel and Palestinian towns in the West Bank, with posts on social media urging solidarity “from the sea to the river.”

The state of emergency in the mixed Israeli town of Lod, a flashpoint for violence between Arab and Jewish neighbours, has been extended for another two days over fears of further unrest.

Overnight, six shells were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel, but fell short of crossing the border, the Israeli military said, adding that it fired artillery at “the sources of the launches” in Lebanon.

The President’s calls for a ceasefire were echoed by his top military officer, General Mark Milley, who warned the escalating violence could spread across the region.

“My assessment is that you risk broader destabilisation and you risk a whole series of negative consequences if the fighting continues,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters before landing in Brussels on Monday for talks with NATO allies. “It’s in no one’s interest to continue fighting.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration would support a ceasefire without explicitly demanding one.

“In all of these engagements we have made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a ceasefire,” Blinken said while on diplomatic business in Copenhagen. “But ultimately it is up to the parties to make clear that they want to pursue a ceasefire.”

The Biden administration has blocked a joint attempt by China, Norway and other countries to release a United Nations Security Council statement calling the violence a “grave concern”.

The breakdown of the fragile peace between Israel and Gaza comes as the Biden administration is attempting to reboot the nuclear pact with Iran, Israel’s most implacable enemy and Hamas’ closest ally.

It also threatens the trade deals arranged between Israel and Arab nations such as Morocco and the United Arab Emirates under the Trump administration.

Biden’s call with Netanyahu came a day after 28 Democratic senators issued a statement calling for Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement.

“I think the administration needs to push harder on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to stop the violence, bring about a ceasefire, end these hostilities, and get back to a process of trying to resolve this long-standing conflict,” California Democrat Adam Schiff said.

Democrats became increasingly vocal in their opposition following Israel’s bombing of a Gaza building containing the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera media outlets.

Israel says the building was being used by Hamas and that it has shared intelligence with the Biden administration that provides evidence for the claim.

with Reuters

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2021-05-18 06:39:16Z
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