Biden presses Netanyahu for 'significant de-escalation' of tension with Palestine

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Washington, May 19 (PTI) US President Joe Biden on Wednesday escalated pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the fighting with Hamas militants, saying that he expects a 'significant de-escalation' in the Gaza conflict and wanted a 'path to ceasefire'.

Biden telephoned Netanyahu and the two leaders had 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 White House said in a readout of the call.

“The President conveyed to the Prime Minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” said the White House.

The US is a staunch ally of Israel and has so far opposed a joint UN Security Council statement on the conflict. The latest bid for a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence, launched by France, Egypt and Jordan, failed on Tuesday.

The description of the call -- the fourth between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu over the past week -- reflected growing concern in the White House over the conflict, CNN reported.

Previously, Biden administration officials said their objective was to keep pressure on Israel limited to private conversations. But that appeared to shift after the White House revealed publicly that Biden had set a short deadline for de-escalating the violence, it said.

However, former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley slammed Biden for seeking de-escalation from Israel.

“Biden is calling for Israel to de-escalate while the terrorist group Hamas is still firing rockets at Israeli citizens,” the Indian-American Republican leader said in a tweet.

“It would be unacceptable if one of our allies called for de-escalation if Washington DC were targeted by rockets. We must stand with Israel against terrorism,” Haley said.

Biden, in a telephonic call with Netanyahu on Monday, supported Israel’s 'right to defend itself' against indiscriminate rocket attacks and encouraged him to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.

Biden welcomed efforts to address inter-communal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem.

He also expressed concern that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children.

Palestinian militant group Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets over Israel during the past seven days, pushing more than half of Israel's population into shelter houses and Israel has carried out hundreds of devastating retaliatory attacks in Gaza.

More than 200 people have been killed in the recent escalation in the region, including a caregiver from India. PTI LKJ RS AKJ RS