US President Joe Biden expressed concerns about the escalating conflict in the Gaza Strip in separate phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
During his call with Netanyahu, Biden on Saturday voiced concerns about violent confrontations in the West Bank and “shared his grave concern about the intercommunal violence across Israel,” Xinhua news agency quoted a White House readout of the conversation.
He also raised concerns about “the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection”, likely referring to an airstrike carried out by the Israeli military earlier in the day that destroyed a building housing international news organizations in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” said the readout.
‘Biden’s First Call With Palestinian President’
Biden also held his first phone conversation with Abbas since he took office in January, in which he conveyed Washington's “commitment to strengthening the US-Palestinian partnership.”
The two leaders discussed current tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and expressed their shared concern about the loss of civilian life in the ongoing violence, the White House said in a separate readout.
Biden emphasized to Abbas the need for Hamas to halt firing rockets into Israel. He voiced his support for the two-state solution in speaking with both leaders.
The phone calls came amid escalating violence between the Israeli security forces and Palestinian militants.
Israeli fighter jets on Saturday bombed and demolished Jala Tower, a high-rise building in Gaza City housing Al-Jazeera TV and Associated Press (AP) offices, as well as residential apartments.
The building “contained military assets belonging to the intelligence offices of Hamas”, said an Israeli military spokesperson in a statement.
AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said that “we are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP's bureau and other news organizations in Gaza"”
“We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” he said. “A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time,” he added.
The ongoing conflict was the worst violence between Israel and the besieged Palestinian enclave since 2014.
Militant groups in Gaza continued firing barrages of rockets targeting cities in northern, central and southern Israel.
A spokesperson of the Israeli army said that more than 200 rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel in the last 12 hours, while the overall number since Monday increased to over 1,800.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry in Gaza said that since Monday, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed, including 40 children and 20 women, and about 1,000 others injured.
The rocket attacks have also killed at least nine Israelis and wounded 200 others so far.
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