Conflicts & War

Biden hopes for quick end to Israel-Palestinian strife

Washington, May 12 (EFE).- US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he was hopeful the current round of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians was approaching an end.

“My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself,” he told reporters at the White House following a telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The leader of the United States, which annually provides more than $3 billion a year in aid to Israel, commented hours after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the deputy assistant secretary for Israel and Palestinian affairs would be traveling to the region.

Hady Amr’s mission will be “to urge de-escalation and to bring calm,” Blinken said.

While emphasizing the “very clear and absolute distinction between a terrorist organization, Hamas, that is indiscriminately raining down rockets, in fact, targeting civilians, and Israel’s response, defending itself,” the secretary said that Israel “has an extra burden” to try to prevent civilian deaths.

“Whenever we see civilian casualties and, particularly, when we see children caught in the crossfire, losing their lives, that has a powerful impact,” Blinken said.

On the ground, neither the Israelis nor Hamas, the Islamist group in power in Gaza, showed any signs of relenting Wednesday night.

Authorities in Israel said that a 6-year-old child was killed as a result of a Hamas rocket, the seventh Israeli fatality since the fighting began on Monday, while the death toll in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes climbed to 65, including 16 children.

Israeli online media outlet Ynet reported that Netanyahu informed his Cabinet that he had rejected a Russian proposal for a cease-fire.

In Moscow, visiting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres endorsed Russia’s call for reactivating the so-called Middle East Quartet – the US, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union – in response to this latest crisis.

“I think we came to a common conclusion that the most urgent task is calling a meeting of the quartet of international mediators,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a joint press conference with Guterres.

“And we trust the secretary-general as the coordinator of the quartet,” Lavrov said of the group established in 2002.

Guterres said the UN stood ready to revive the quartet and repeated his appeal for an end to the violence.

The US shut down an attempt by several countries on the UN Security Council to approve a resolution on the conflict, diplomatic sources told Efe Wednesday.

Ireland, holder of one of the 10 non-permanent seats on the council, had sought a resolution condemning violence against civilians by all parties and demanding an immediate cease-fire.

But during a closed-door virtual meeting on Wednesday, the US rejected the idea.

As one of the council’s five permanent members, along with China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, the US is in a position to veto resolutions.

After the session, Ireland, France, Estonia and Norway issued a joint statement denouncing the violence from both sides and demanding that Israel suspend planned evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Unrest associated with the evictions helped spark the latest escalation.

A military spokesman said earlier Wednesday that Israeli forces are acting “under the same guidelines” as during the 2014 conflict, when up to 2,310 Gazans were killed. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers, five Israeli civilians and one Thai civilian were also killed during the unrest that year.

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