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Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.

Between the lines: An Israeli official said the Biden administration hadn't given Israel a deadline for reaching a ceasefire but had been stressing on Monday that it was reaching the end of its ability to hold back international pressure on Israel over the Gaza operation.

“The overall message was that they support us but want this to end."
— Israeli official to Axios
  • The U.S. has blocked at least three attempts at the UN Security Council to release a statement on the situation in Gaza.

During the call, Biden reiterated his support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks while encouraging Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, the White House said.

  • Gaza health officials say at least 212 Palestinians have been killed over the past week, including 61 children. Most of the casualties are the result of Israeli airstrikes.
  • 10 Israelis have been killed, including two children, as Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel — most of which have been intercepted.

What to watch: Netanyahu thanked Biden for his support for Israel’s right to self-defense but stressed that he wants to complete all the goals of the Gaza operation, his office said.

  • Biden and Netanyahu also discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners toward a ceasefire, the White House said.
  • Meanwhile, Secretary of State Blinken spoke on the phone today with his Israeli, Jordanian, Emirati and EU counterparts about efforts to end the fighting.

Worth noting: The U.S. waited until five minutes before the deadline to block the most recent UN Security Council statement on Monday, which Israeli officials read as a signal that the U.S. position was shifting, Israeli officials say.

Go deeper

Aug 25, 2021 - World

U.S. has options if Iran talks fail, officials say ahead of Israeli PM's visit

Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty

If diplomacy fails, the U.S. will consider using other means to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, senior Biden administration officials said in a briefing ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's visit to the White House.

Why it matters: Iran is the main agenda item for Bennett's visit, and he is expected to push for a "Plan B" now that nuclear talks have stalled. The U.S. officials didn't say what exactly the administration would consider but are clearly trying to reassure the Israelis that they are willing to pressure Iran.

Aug 24, 2021 - World

Biden told G7 allies U.S. still plans to get out of Kabul by Aug. 31

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Biden visit during the G7 summit in June. Photo: Toby Melville/Pool/AFP via Getty

President Biden told his fellow G7 leaders that the U.S. is on pace to complete its evacuation operation in Afghanistan by his Aug. 31 deadline, and that staying longer would increase the risk to U.S. troops, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

Why it matters: Allies including the United Kingdom and France have lobbied the Biden administration to press the Taliban to extend the timeline, fearing they won't be able to get their citizens and Afghan allies out in time. But the Taliban has said it views the Aug. 31 as a red line, and Biden is still aiming to get out before then — though he has asked for "contingency plans," the White House said.

Aug 24, 2021 - World

Former Trump Pentagon chief says U.S. troop withdrawal date was never fixed

Christopher Miller, then director of the National Counterterrorism Center, during a September Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

Chris Miller, the Trump administration's last acting defense secretary, told CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" Monday evening that there was never a concrete date to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Why it matters: Former President Trump has said President Biden should have stuck to the previous administration's May 1 deadline. But Miller told CNN's Chris Cuomo that there was always the provision for officials to "move the goal posts" on the date if required.

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