Biden expresses concern over conflict as Netanyahu defends Israel's actions in Gaza

Biden expresses concern over conflict as Netanyahu defends Israel’s actions in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the bombing of a building in Gaza housing media organizations as President Joe Biden expressed concern for the safety of civilians and journalists.

Netanyahu spoke on CBS’s “Face the Nation” after press freedom advocates and others condemned the Israeli military airstrike on a building in Gaza that housed foreign media offices, including the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera. The 12-story building also housed apartments and other offices.

No injuries or deaths were reported immediately after the weekend bombing. Israel warned of the airstrike, which it said it carried out because it had information that Hamas had a military intelligence office in the building. He did not provide the information publicly.

Netanyahu declined to detail the intelligence, reiterating that a Hamas intelligence team had been housed in the building.

“So it’s a perfectly legitimate target,” he said. “And I can tell you that we took every precaution to make sure there were no civilian injuries – in fact, no deaths, no injuries at all. Well, I can’t say injuries. I don’t know if anyone received a fragment of a stone. I don’t know. But no one was killed. “

Efforts to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas intensified on Sunday, as at least 188 Palestinians, including 55 children, were killed in Gaza last week, according to figures from the Palestinian Ministry of Health. In Israel, 10 people were killed. Hundreds of people on both sides were injured.

The latest conflict, the most widespread since 2014, arose after tensions erupted last month in and around Jerusalem.

Pressed to find out whether his political situation had played a role in the escalation, Netanyahu, who struggled for months to form a new government as others sought to overthrow it, said the idea was “absurd.”

“I think anyone who knows me knows that I have never, ever subordinated security concerns, the lives of our soldiers, the lives of our citizens, for political interests,” he said. “It’s just rubbish.”

On broader elements of the conflict, Netanyahu said Israel has the right to defend itself and that the Israeli leadership “will do whatever it takes to restore order”, adding that he hopes the conflict ends. soon but that the end will not be. immediate.”

Also speaking on “Face the Nation,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Said the United States must “do everything possible to achieve a ceasefire. “.

“I think the administration needs to push Israel and the Palestinian Authority harder to stop the violence,” he said.

At a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the violence on Sunday, Secretary-General António Guterres said the fighting was “appalling” and had caused “unacceptable death” and immense suffering.

“The fighting must stop. They must stop immediately,” he said.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US “calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect international humanitarian law.”

“We also urge all parties to protect medical and other humanitarian facilities, as well as journalists and media organizations,” she said. “We are particularly concerned about the protection of UN facilities, as civilians seek refuge in about two dozen of them.”

She said the human toll of the conflict was “devastating”, adding: “It is time to end the cycle of violence”.

“We urge all parties to avoid actions that jeopardize a peaceful future,” she said. “This involves avoiding incitement, violent attacks and terrorist acts, as well as evictions – including in East Jerusalem – demolitions and settlement building east of the 1967 lines. And it is essential that all parties maintain and respect the historic status quo in holy places. “

Biden spoke to Netanyahu and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. In his conversation with Netanyahu, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” reads a White House appeal. .

“The president noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” the newspaper said. He expressed concern for the safety and security of journalists and stressed the need to ensure their protection. The president expressed his grave concern at the violence in the region. He welcomed statements by the prime minister and other leaders opposing these heinous acts and urged continued measures to hold violent extremists accountable and restore calm. “

Reading Biden’s appeal with Abbas by the White House said the two leaders “discussed the current tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and expressed their common desire to make Jerusalem a place of peaceful coexistence for the people of all faiths and origins “.

“President Biden briefed President Abbas on the United States’ diplomatic engagement on the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel,” the newspaper said. “They expressed their common concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amid the continued violence.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on Saturday. The Defense Department said Austin “reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.”

“He strongly condemned the continued attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups against Israeli civilians,” the Pentagon said. “The secretary shared his views on the need to restore calm.”

Senator Bob Menendez, DN.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on Saturday that he was “deeply disturbed by reports of Israeli military actions resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians in Gaza as well. than by Israeli attacks on buildings housing international media. “

“In response to thousands of rocket attacks launched by Hamas against civilians, Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorists determined to wipe it off the map,” he continued. “But no matter how dangerous and how real this threat is, I have always believed that the strength of the US-Israel relationship flourishes when it is founded on the shared values ​​of democracy, freedom, pluralism and respect. human rights and the rule of law. “