President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday (May 19) and urged de-escalation “on the path to a ceasefire” as hostility continues between Israel and the militant group Hamas. Reuters reports that the call happened after Netanyahu said he was not setting a “timeframe” for an end to the violence.
“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,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.”
However, Netanyahu said he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met” and added that he “greatly appreciates the support of the American president.”
Conflict raged on for a 10th day on Wednesday, and Palestinian medical officials said that 223 Palestinians have now been killed, including more than 60 children. Israeli authorities have reported a total of 12 deaths, including two children, in their country.
Hamas officials told CNN on Wednesday that a ceasefire could be “imminent, possibly within 24 hours” as world leaders continue to call for an end to the violence. Speaking with Reuters, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said those who want the destruction to end must “compel Israel to end its aggression in Jerusalem and its bombardment of Gaza.”
“If the occupation stopped its aggression against the people of Jerusalem and ended its bombardment on Gaza, there can be room to talk about arrangements to restore calm,” Qassem added.
Hostility grew earlier this month after Israeli security police clashed with worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. That, combined with the nearing forced eviction date of several Palestinian families, led to Hamas firing rockets on May 10. In the 10 days since, Israel has responded with hundreds of devastating airstrikes in what NBC News called the most violent exchange of fire in the area since the 2014 war in Gaza.