Gaza conflict: Biden backs ceasefire | Free press

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Washington / Tel Aviv / Gaza (dpa) – In the Middle East conflict between Israel and militant Palestinians, US President Joe Biden has expressed support for a ceasefire.

Biden said this during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said. The US president had also spoken with Netanyahu about efforts by the United States, Egypt and other partners to bring about such a ceasefire.

Netanyahu announced after a security cabinet meeting that the attacks in Gaza would continue. “The guideline is: the attacks on terrorist targets will continue,” he said. It is a matter of “restoring peace and security to all Israeli citizens”. According to eyewitnesses, there were again heavy air raids on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday evening. Militant Palestinians fired missiles at Israel again: according to the army, missile alarms went off again in the south of the country.

Biden is facing increasing pressure to stand up for an end to the violence. However, in the White House’s diplomatic message, he failed to call for an immediate ceasefire, including from his own Democratic party. The US is Israel’s main ally.

The White House said that in the telephone conversation with Netanyahu, Biden reiterated his support for Israel’s right to self-defense. At the same time, he had encouraged Israel to “do everything in its power to ensure the protection of innocent civilians.” It was Biden’s third call to Netanyahu since the violence flared up. For the first time since taking office nearly four months ago, Biden also spoke with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas on Saturday.

With Israeli attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip and the shelling of Israeli cities by Palestinian militants, the conflict entered its second week. According to Palestinian sources, Israeli missiles also hit a medical laboratory in the Rimal district of Gaza City, which served as a focal point for corona tests and vaccinations.

According to its own statements, the Israeli military has deliberately murdered a senior Islamic Jihad military commander in the Gaza Strip. Hasem Abu Harbid, the head of the militant organization’s northern command, is said to have been responsible for several attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers, as well as for missile attacks on Israel.

According to the army, further attacks have targeted five houses of senior commanders of Islam’s Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The housing complexes served as the “infrastructure of terror,” he said. They are said to have housed command and communication centers as well as weapons stores. Another air raid destroyed the main operations center of Hamas’s internal security service.

The Gaza Health Ministry complained that a medical laboratory had been badly damaged in one of the attacks in Rimal. The health service can therefore no longer carry out corona tests and vaccinations. The pandemic situation is exacerbated by the fact that more than 40,000 people sought protection from the airstrikes in completely overcrowded civil defense bunkers.

Palestinian militants in the coastal area shelled the southern Israeli cities of Beersheva, Ashkelon and Ashdod. Eight Israelis suffered minor injuries, emergency services Magen David Adom announced. Six missiles were fired from Lebanon towards Israel, all of which fell into Lebanese territory, Israeli forces announced Monday night. In response, the army fired artillery at the attackers.

Given the ongoing bloodshed on both sides, the Biden government defended itself against criticism on Monday, claiming that it is not advocating an end to the violence with sufficient force. The United States relied on “quiet, intense diplomacy” in the conflict, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Recently, 29 Democratic senators issued a joint statement calling for “an immediate ceasefire agreement”. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized this as an attempt to equate “terrorists attacking Israel” with a “self-defending nation.” The US should be close to Israel.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) again condemned the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza in a telephone conversation with Netanyahu. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced in Berlin on Monday that she had assured Netanyahu of solidarity with the federal government and affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against the attacks. At the same time, Merkel, “in view of the many civilians on both sides who have lost their lives, expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible,” said Seibert.

The French government is relying on the mediating role of Egypt and Jordanian King Abdullah II, President Emmanuel Macron announced after a meeting with his Egyptian colleague Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Paris. The mediation could restore confidence and accompany a possible ceasefire, Macron said.

The recent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been fueled by tensions in Jerusalem. The threat of deportation of Palestinian families in the eastern part of Jerusalem, annexed by Israel, contributed to this, as did the harsh intervention of the Israeli police in clashes on the Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif) in the old city of Jerusalem. The religious sites in the old city are sacred to both Jews and Muslims.

The conflict escalated last Monday. According to the Israeli military, militant Palestinians have since fired more than 3,350 missiles at Israel, killing ten people. More than 300 were injured. In comparison, during the 51-day Gaza War in 2014, a total of 4,481 missiles were fired at Israel.

The vast majority of missiles are intercepted by the iron-domed defense system that Israel uses to protect its national territory. Conversely, the Israeli military claims to have attacked more than 1,200 targets in the Gaza Strip so far. The Gaza Health Ministry estimated the number of deaths since the escalation began at 212, including 61 children. 1,400 people were injured.