- The Washington Times - Monday, May 17, 2021

President Biden on Monday expressed support for a “ceasefire” in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid escalating fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Mr. Biden also reaffirmed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against “indiscriminate” rocket attacks by Hamas.

“The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end,” said a readout of the call released by the White House. “The two leaders agreed that they and their teams would remain in close touch.”

It was at least the third time the two leaders have spoken within the last week.

The mention of a ceasefire goes beyond where the White House was previously willing to venture.

Pressed on calls for a ceasefire earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was focused on “quiet and intensive diplomacy.”

Israeli warplanes launched a new series of airstrikes at several locations in Gaza City on Monday.

Mr. Netanyahu had said Sunday that Israel’s attacks were continuing at “full-force” and would “take time.“ Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” on the Hamas militant group, he said.

Hamas has repeatedly launched rockets into civilian areas in Israel during the past week.

Over the weekend, a majority of Senate Democrats called for an immediate ceasefire.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Monday that he agreed with a separate bipartisan statement from Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut who called for a ceasefire while affirming that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s not a “both sides” issue.

“I’ve been proud to stand with Israel for years and I am proud to stand with Israel today,” said Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “The United States needs to stand four-square behind our ally.”

The rocket attacks stem from violence that began last month in east Jerusalem where Palestinians clashed with Israeli police after Israeli threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families during Ramadan.

A focus of the clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a hilltop compound revered by both Muslims and Jews.

Hamas began firing rockets toward Jerusalem last week, triggering the Israeli assault on Gaza.

At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed in some of the 3,100 rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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