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Biden Voices Support for a Cease-fire in a Call With Israel’s Netanyahu

Biden Voices Support for a Cease-fire in a Call With Israel’s Netanyahu

The worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in years spilled into a ninth day on Tuesday as the Israeli military bombarded Gaza and southern Lebanon and Hamas militants fired rockets into southern Israeli towns, hours after President Biden expressed support for a cease-fire during a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Mr. Biden’s carefully worded statement fell short of an immediate demand for an end to Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, which showed little sign of ending after Mr. Netanyahu said on Monday that his country’s armed forces would “continue striking at the terrorist targets.”

Despite growing concern in foreign capitals over the violence — and among some of Israel’s staunchest defenders in Washington — the region’s heaviest clashes since a 2014 war threatened to escalate. Late Monday, the Israeli military fired artillery shells into Lebanon for the first time since the hostilities began, striking what it said were Palestinian militants who had attempted to fire rockets into Israel.

The Israeli Army said it believed that a small Palestinian faction in Lebanon — and not the militant group Hezbollah — had fired the rockets, most of which failed to reach Israeli territory. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon tweeted that it had intensified patrols in the area and that the situation on Tuesday morning was calm.

But the toll on civilians continued to grow. By late Monday, the Israeli bombardment had killed 212 people in Gaza, including dozens of children, and Hamas rockets had killed at least 10 in Israel.

The Israeli Army said that Hamas had fired almost as many rockets in eight days — 3,350 — as it did in the 50-day war the two sides fought in 2014. About 90 percent of them were destroyed in midair by the Iron Dome, an antimissile defense system partly financed by the United States, the Israeli Army said.

The fighting has been focused on the Gaza Strip, the crowded coastal enclave ruled by Hamas, as the Israeli Army bombards infrastructure and underground tunnels that it says Hamas uses to support its military operations. But protests and violence have also erupted in the West Bank and Israel, where Arabs have clashed with the Israeli police and Jewish residents.

Palestinian activists in all three territories have called for a general strike on Tuesday to protest Israel’s bombing of Gaza and decades of occupation and discrimination against Palestinians. The initiative has the backing of both Hamas and its rival Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-autonomy in parts of the West Bank.

The Biden administration has stepped up its diplomatic engagement, dispatching an envoy to the region last week. In a readout of Mr. Biden’s call with Mr. Netanyahu, White House officials said the president had “expressed his support for a cease-fire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.” But Mr. Biden had “reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks,” the statement added.

The Biden administration previously avoided the use of the term “cease-fire,” with top officials like Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken talking instead about the need for a “sustainable calm” and others referring to the need for “restraint.”

While a cease-fire would be welcomed by the White House, Mr. Netanyahu has in recent days made clear that he intended to continue bombing until Israel has destroyed Hamas’s stockpile of rockets, launchers and the tunnels from which Hamas fighters are operating. Speaking on Monday after meeting with Israeli security officials, Mr. Netanyahu said, “We will continue to take whatever action necessary in order to restore quiet and security for all the residents of Israel.”

In his conversations with Mideast leaders, Mr. Biden has tried to move the United States to a more neutral role as a peacemaker, after four years of former President Donald J. Trump favoring Israel.

On Saturday, the White House pointed to Mr. Biden’s recent “decision to resume assistance to the Palestinian people, including economic and humanitarian assistance to benefit Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza,” and his renewed call for “a negotiated two-state solution as the best path to reach a just and lasting resolution.”

On Monday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, told reporters that the administration would not reveal all the details of Mr. Biden’s communications with leaders in the conflict. “Our approach is through quiet, intensive diplomacy,” she said. “That is how we feel we can be most effective.”




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