President Joe Biden called for a ceasefire Monday in the midst of conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to the White House.
A reporter asked Biden Monday afternoon following a press conference if he would support a ceasefire, which he responded by saying that he would provide details about his stance following his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day.
"The President spoke today with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu," the White House said in a press briefing. "The President reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks. The President welcomed efforts to address intercommunal violence and to bring calm to Jerusalem.
"He encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians," the briefing continued. "The two leaders discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. The President expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed U.S. engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end. The two leaders agreed that they and their teams would remain in close touch."
Biden’s comments make for the first time he has publicly sought a ceasefire after tensions escalated in between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas.
His call follows remarks from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said Sunday that the violence must stop immediately.
Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately. Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop. I appeal to all parties to heed this call-@antonioguterres today on the situation in the Middle East. Remarks ??— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) May 16, 2021
Prior to Monday's call with Netanyahu, the Biden administration had voiced its support for Israel during their conflict with Hamas, saying it had a right to defend itself. This prompted several Democrats, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who called Israel's counterstrikes that killed Hamas terrorists an "act of terrorism," to display their opposition to the White House's stance.
"We want to bring an end to the violence," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "We want to deescalate the situation on the ground. The role we feel we can do that through — the most effective way we feel we can do that is through quiet and intensive diplomacy, and that is what our focus is on at this point in time. But we share an objective of deescalating the circumstances on the ground. We share a view that a two-state solution is the only way to bring a lasting end to the violence."
Netanyahu said that Israeli strikes against Hamas will not stop and that he is unsure if his mind will be changed after his call with Biden.
NEW: Netanyahu says Israeli strikes on #Gaza will continue.— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) May 17, 2021
“The directive is to continue to strike at the targets of terrorism.”
Israel making clear it does not want a ceasefire right now. And Biden admin not pressuring them to accept one - even as death Gaza toll mounts.
As tensions continue to increase between Israel and Hamas, casualties continue to rise. More than 200 people have been killed from Israeli airstrikes, including about 60 children. Approximately 1,400 people were wounded as well, according to The New York Times.