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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

May 16, 2021 - World

Israel to continue Gaza operation, officials rule out cease-fire for now

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) on May 9, 2021. Photo: AMIT SHABI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Israeli security cabinet on Sunday decided to continue the Gaza operation, according to military plans. Israeli officials said a cease-fire is not on the table right now.

Why it matters: There was a growing feeling within the military and senior defense establishment ahead of the cabinet meeting that Israel should start moving toward ending the operation.

May 16, 2021 - World

Most of Congress silent on Israeli-Palestinian fighting

A Palestinian boy mourns an airstrike victim on Sunday. Photo: Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images

The pitched criticism by conservatives over progressive outrage about the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians overshadows a larger silence by the vast majority of Congress.

Why it matters: In the largely permissive environment, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ratcheting up its military engagement in Gaza. The death toll is rising, and a spectacular weekend attack leveled a building housing the Associated Press and other outside media.

Updated May 20, 2021 - World

In photos: Israel-Hamas aerial bombardments continue as ceasefire calls grow

Smoke billows following an Israeli airstrike at Gaza City on May 20. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

Fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas entered an 11th day Thursday, as international calls grow for a ceasefire following the worst violence to hit the region since 2014.

What's happening: Israeli warplanes again "pounded Gaza overnight" and Hamas rockets hit "at least two" Israeli cities, the Washington Post reports. No rockets were launched from Gaza for roughly eight hours, but sirens warning of rockets in Israel resumed about 9:30am Thursday local time, per Wash Post.

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