Biden speaks with Israelis and Palestinians to express concern, supports Israeli self-defense

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 15, 2021, in support of Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rocket attacks. A man claiming to have served in the Israeli army for 32 years is pictured surrounded by pro-Palestinians at a rally in Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

As a new round of Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues for seven days, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, renewing his support for Israel’s right to self-defense and calling on Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

Hamas fires some 2,300 rockets Biden speaks with Israel in support of self-defense

In a call on Saturday (May 15), Biden reiterated his strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense against missile attacks from the Tehran-backed Hamas and other terrorist groups.

The IDF said earlier in the day that Hamas, Islamic “jihad” and other militant groups have fired some 2,300 rockets from Gaza into Israel since Monday. About 1,000 of those rockets were intercepted by its missile defense system, but 380 were mistakenly fired into the Gaza Strip, leading to more civilian casualties in Gaza.

In response, Israel has targeted Hamas and other militant targets with more than 1,000 precision air strikes and artillery shelling. These targets are often located near civilian landmarks in the densely populated coastal strip.

The exchange of fire has killed at least 149 people in Gaza, including 41 children; 10 people, including two children, have been killed in Israel.

Biden condemned the terror group’s “indiscriminate attacks” on Israel and expressed concern about “intercommunal violence” reported by Israel’s Jewish Arab community, according to a recording of the phone call between the U.S. and Israeli leaders.

A White House statement said, “The president expressed concern about the violence in the West Bank. He expressed support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom and economic opportunity they deserve and affirmed his support for a two-state solution (reached).”

Israel destroys 12-story international media building said to contain military assets of Hamas intelligence office

The White House also expressed concern for the safety and security of journalists covering the situation in the region.

Israel targeted and destroyed a 12-story building in Gaza City that day. The Israeli side said the building “contained military assets belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization’s intelligence office.

The building also housed civilian operations, including the U.S. Associated Press, Qatar-based Al Jazeera, and other offices and apartments. The owners were warned of the attack and all were able to evacuate. Before taking action, the IDF said they notified civilians by phone, text messages and dropping “roof knocker” bombs to warn them of the operation.

In a series of statements, the IDF said the operation targeted a civilian building that had been converted by Hamas into a military position. They said the building was used for military purposes such as intelligence gathering, planning attacks, command and control, and communications.

In its statement, the IDF said, “The building contained civilian media offices behind which Hamas hid and deliberately used as human shields.”

The Associated Press condemned the Israeli attack and asked the Israelis to provide evidence of Hamas’ activities inside the building.

Associated Press media relations director Lauren Easton said in a statement, “The AP bureau has been in this building for 15 years. We have no indication that Hamas is in this building or operating in this building. This is something that we do our best to actively check. We would never intentionally put our journalists in danger.”

Commentators have since pointed to a 2014 article by former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman. In the article, he wrote that Hamas fighters had previously “stormed the AP’s Gaza bureau.” The AP was reluctant to report the story because of the threats. AP staff also witnessed Hamas “firing rockets from next to their [Gaza] offices.”

Hamas rocket attack Monday, Israel vows response

Hamas said its rocket attack Monday was in response to a court expulsion of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem and in retaliation for the Israeli police’s response to Palestinian rioters.

Netanyahu’s office said riots broke out near Al-Aqsa Mosque (or Al-Aqsa), the city’s third holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 10. The clashes were sparked by Palestinians throwing artillery shells at Israeli security forces.

In a news conference Saturday, Netanyahu vowed a strong response to Hamas’ “unprovoked” attacks on Israel.

“Several Israelis have been killed. Many others have been wounded. You and I both know that Israel will not tolerate this. No country will tolerate this.” He said, “We will continue to respond forcefully until the security of our people is restored.”

Israel and the terror group have clashed repeatedly since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. It is not unusual for Israel to respond to rocket attacks with air strikes.

Biden talks with Hamas to emphasize halt in launches conveys U.S. commitment to strengthening U.S.-Palestinian partnership

The White House said Biden also spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “to convey the U.S. commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian partnership.

According to the call, the president “discussed the current tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and expressed their shared desire for Jerusalem to be a place where people of all faiths and backgrounds can live together in peace.” He also stressed the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

Biden and Abbas discussed the current state of tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and shared their desire for Jerusalem to achieve peaceful coexistence among people of all faiths and backgrounds. Biden informed Abbas of U.S. diplomatic contacts regarding the ongoing conflict, emphasizing the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

The two expressed concern over the loss of innocent civilians, including children, in the ongoing violence. Biden noted that the United States has recently decided to resume assistance to the Palestinian population, including economic and humanitarian aid that benefits the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet Sunday (16) to discuss what is said to be the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in years.