Biden, Netanyahu Discuss Military Developments In Gaza


U.S. President Joe Biden spoke Saturday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, the White House said. 

“I did not ask for a cease-fire,” Biden told reporters as he left Washington for Camp David. He called the conversation long and private. 

According to a White House statement, the president emphasized to Netanyahu “the critical need to protect the civilian population including those supporting the humanitarian aid operation, and the importance of allowing civilians to move safely away from areas of ongoing fighting.” 

They also discussed the need to free the remaining hostages held by Hamas. 

Netanyahu’s office later said the prime minister “made clear that Israel would continue the war until achieving all its goals.” 

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, which governs Gaza, after the militant group sent fighters rampaging into Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israel. Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and others, also took about 240 people hostage. 

More than 90 Palestinians were killed Saturday by Israeli airstrikes on two homes in Gaza, rescuers and hospital officials said. Residents of Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, said the airstrikes coupled with shelling from tanks was unrelenting.

Military operations continue

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said late Friday that forces are broadening the ground offensive “to additional areas of the strip, with a focus on the south.” 

Operations, he said, also were continuing in the northern half of Gaza, the initial focus of Israel’s ground offensive. The army said it carried out airstrikes against Hamas fighters in several locations of Gaza City. 

Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said Saturday that it had destroyed five Israeli tanks near Jabalia, killing and injuring their crews by using two undetonated missiles fired earlier by Israel. 

Hamas also said it had lost contact with a group holding five Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip. The militants said the hostages could have been killed during an Israeli raid, said Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for al Qassam Brigades, in a statement on the group’s Telegram channel. 

Reuters was not able to independently verify either report. 

More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 53,000 have been wounded, according to health officials in Gaza, since Israel launched its war with Hamas. 

Israel blames Hamas for the high civilian death toll, citing its use of crowded residential areas and tunnels. Israel has launched thousands of airstrikes since the October 7 terror attack and has largely refrained from commenting on specific incidents. 

Israel said Saturday that 146 of its soldiers have been killed since it launched its ground incursion on October 20. 

Humanitarian aid enters Gaza

Reports emerged Saturday that 70 humanitarian trucks had entered southern Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing. 

Gaza is in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Israel had told Palestinians in Gaza to evacuate to southern Gaza, but when they arrived, there were few accommodations for the massive influx of people. About 85% of the 2.3 million people who live in Gaza have been pushed into the south. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday it’s a mistake to measure the effectiveness of the humanitarian operation by the number of trucks. 

“The real problem is that the way Israel is conducting this offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza,” he said. He noted that prerequisites for an effective aid operation don’t exist because there is no guaranteed safety for staff to work in a logistical capacity and resume commercial activity. 

On Friday, a veteran U.S. Development Program employee, his wife and their five children were killed in an airstrike on Gaza City. 

Guterres maintained that Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields and its continued firing of rockets at civilian targets “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” and “do not free Israel from its own legal obligations.” 

After days of intense negotiations on a humanitarian pause and the delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip, the United States abstained Friday on a U.N. Security Council resolution, allowing its adoption by the 15-member body. 

Rather than demanding a cease-fire, the final text of the U.N. Security Council Friday called for the warring parties to create “the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” Neither the United States nor Israel currently supports a cease-fire, saying it would allow Hamas to regroup. 

The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to adopt a resolution demanding an “immediate humanitarian cease-fire,” with 153 member states in favor, 10 against, and 23 abstentions. Unlike UNSC resolutions, the UNGA’s are nonbinding. 

More than 2 million in crisis

The entire population of Gaza — more than 2 million people — is at crisis levels, or worse, of hunger the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC, a U.N.-backed body, warned. 

“WFP has warned of this coming catastrophe for weeks,” World Food Program Executive Director Cindy McCain said of the IPC’s findings. “Tragically, without the safe, consistent access we have been calling for, the situation is desperate, and no one in Gaza is safe from starvation.” 

In a statement, UNICEF said in the coming weeks, at least 10,000 children under 5 years old will suffer the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, known as severe wasting, and will need therapeutic foods. 

VOA’s White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara and U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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