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Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

The Israeli prime minister's office said Netanyahu told Biden that Israel is doing the utmost to avoid targeting civilians and claimed that the building with media offices also housed Hamas military facilities. Netanyahu also noted that those in the building had been warned before the attack, his office said.

  • AP, Al Jazeera, whose offices were also destroyed in Saturday's airstrike in Gaza, and press freedom groups strongly condemned the Israeli attack on the high-rise building.
  • Biden also "reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza," according to a White House readout of the call.
  • "He expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve and affirmed his support for a two-state solution," the readout added.
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also called his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, and raised concerns about the targeting of civilians in Gaza, Israeli officials said. Gantz told Austin that Israel is doing everything it can to avoid hitting civilians.

Biden also spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian officials say.

  • It was the first phone call between the two leaders since Biden assumed office.
  • "President Biden updated President Abbas on U.S. diplomatic engagement on the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel," a White House readout of the called said.
  • The Palestinian Authority on Friday criticized the U.S. position on the Gaza crisis and called the Biden administration to intervene.
  • "The silence by the Biden administration about what Israel is doing and the claim it is self defense led to massacres in Gaza and the West Bank. We ask the U.S. to take action because it is the only party in the world who can stop Israeli aggression," Abbas's spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said in a statement.

Context: The latest fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday following violence in Jerusalem over the planned evictions of six Palestinian families to make way for Israeli settlers.

  • This week has also seen the worst inter-communal violence in Israel since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.

Go deeper...

Editor's note: This story has been updated with information about Austin's call with Gantz and the White House readouts of Biden's calls with Netanyahu and Abbas.

Go deeper

May 15, 2021 - World

Israeli airstrike levels high-rise building that housed media offices in Gaza

Smoke billows following an Israeli air strike in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 15. Photo: SAID KHATIB / Getty Images

An Israeli airstrike on Saturday flattened a high-rise building housing media offices for Al Jazeera, the AP and others in the Gaza Strip.

Driving the news: The attack came nearly an hour after the Israeli military warned the building's owner that it was going to bombed and asked for it to be evacuated.

Updated May 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

May 15, 2021 - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.