President Biden speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and PLO Leader Abbas as Mideast conflict escalates; peace talks underway

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has expressed “strong support” for Israel’s strikes in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on its territory, but raised concerns about civilian casualties and the protection of journalists on a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House said Biden on Saturday also shared his “grave concern” about intercommunal violence within Israel and escalating tensions in the West Bank. Biden and Netanyahu discussed Jerusalem, with Biden saying it should “be a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

Biden also held his first call since taking office with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the violence, in which he called for Hamas, the authority’s rival, to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The White House says Biden “expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve” and highlighted the resumption of U.S. aid to the Palestinians under his administration.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa says Abbas updated Biden on the escalations across the Palestinian territories and said he was working to halt “the Israeli aggression against our people and to reach a cease-fire.”

The report says Abbas also told Biden that “security and stability will be achieved when the Israeli occupation ends,” adding that Palestinians are ready and willing to work toward peace with international mediators.

Qatar meets with Hamas
On the Hamas side, Qatar’s foreign minister has met with a top Hamas official.

That’s according to a statement by Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday. It said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in the capital, Doha.

The Foreign Ministry said Sheikh Mohammed “stressed the need for the international community to act urgently to stop the repeated brutal Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza.”

There was no mention of the Israeli strike that toppled a Gaza tower that was home to offices of both The Associated Press, Doha’s Al-Jazeera satellite news network and others.

Meanwhile, the Arab League chief said Saturday that Arab states’ ambassadors to the United Nations are trying to rally international support for Palestinians amid Israeli attacks on Gaza. Ahmed Aboul Gheit called upon the U.N. Security Council to “fulfill its responsibilities” in holding Israel accountable in a session scheduled on Sunday to discuss the violence.

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Source: USA Today

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