President Joe Biden voiced worry about the safety of civilians and journalists while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified bombing a building in Gaza that housed media organizations.
After press freedom activists and others protested the Israeli military’s airstrike on a Gaza building that housed the offices of international media, including The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera, Netanyahu appeared on CBS’s “Face the Country.” Apartments and other departments were also included in the 12-story structure.
There were no initial signs of casualties or fatalities after the weekend bombing. Israel gave advance notice of the airstrike, which it said was carried out because of intelligence that Hamas had a military intelligence office in the house. It has not made the intelligence available to the press.
“It’s, therefore, a completely valid goal,” he said. “And I can assure you that we took every measure to ensure that no civilians were injured — no deaths, no casualties of any kind. I’m afraid I can’t claim accidents. I’m not sure whether anybody got a stone fragment. This is something I am unaware of. However, no one was injured.”
Efforts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas intensified on Sunday, as the Palestinian health ministry reported that at least 188 Palestinians, including 55 teenagers, had been killed in Gaza in the previous week. Ten civilians have been killed in Israel. Hundreds of civilians have been injured on both sides.
After tensions erupted last month in and around Jerusalem, the new crisis, the most serious since 2014, erupted.
When asked whether his political condition played a part in the escalation, Netanyahu, who has been attempting for months to create a new government as some seek to depose him, dismissed the notion as “preposterous.”
“I think everyone who knows me knows I’ve never, ever put security threats, the lives of our troops, the lives of our people, on the back burner for political gain,” he said. “That’s complete nonsense.”
On the larger issues, Netanyahu said that Israel has the right to self-defense and that Israeli leaders will “do whatever it takes to restore order,” adding that while he hopes the crisis will end quickly, it will not be “immediate.”
“I believe the administration should exert more pressure on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to bring the violence to a halt,” he said.
Secretary-General António Guterres said the conflict was “appalling” and had resulted in “unconscionable killing” and “immense pain” at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday to address the bloodshed.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ envoy to the United Nations, said the US “calls on all sides to guarantee the security of civilians and to uphold international humanitarian law.”
“Both parties should also secure medical and other humanitarian services, as well as journalists and media organizations,” she said. “We are especially worried about securing UN facilities, as about two dozen civilians have sought refuge in them.”
“We warn all sides to refrain from acts that jeopardize a future of stability,” she said. “This involves preventing incitement, armed threats, and terrorist activities, as well as evictions, demolitions, and settlement building east of the 1967 borders, particularly in East Jerusalem. Furthermore, both parties must maintain and support the ancient status quo at the holy sites.”
Biden met with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday. According to a White House transcript of the call, Biden “reaffirmed his deep support for Israel’s right to protect itself from missile threats from Hamas and other militant organizations in Gaza.”
According to the readout, “the president acknowledged that this new phase of violence has unfortunately taken the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children.” “He expressed concern about the safety and welfare of journalists, emphasizing the importance of ensuring their safety. The president expressed his deep concern about the ongoing conflict in the country. He praised the prime minister’s and other leaders’ comments condemning such heinous crimes, and urged further action to keep terrorist extremists responsible and restore peace.”
The two leaders “discussed the existing difficulties in Jerusalem and the West Bank and articulated their common wish for Jerusalem to be a place of peaceful coexistence for citizens of all religions and backgrounds,” according to a White House summary of Biden’s call with Abbas.
“President Biden briefed President Abbas on US diplomatic efforts in the ongoing crisis and emphasized the need for Hamas to stop shooting rockets into Israel,” according to the readout. “They voiced their common concern that innocent people, including children, have sadly died as a result of the continuing conflict,” the statement said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday. Austin “reaffirmed Israel’s right of self-defense,” according to the Defense Department.
“He firmly criticized Hamas and other militant organizations’ continuing attacks on Israeli civilians,” according to the Pentagon. “The secretary expressed his opinion on the importance of restoring peace.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he is “deeply concerned” by allegations of Israeli military activities in Gaza that have resulted in the deaths of innocent people, as well as Israeli bombing of buildings hosting international media outlets, in a statement released Saturday.
“In addition to thousands of missile attacks targeted at civilians by Hamas, Israel has every right to self-defense against terrorists determined to erase her off the map,” he said. “However, I have always maintained that the vitality of the US-Israel relationship flourishes when it is founded on common ideals of equality, freedom, pluralism, and respect for human rights and the rule of law, regardless of how dangerous and immediate the challenge maybe.”