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Biden Calls on Israel and Palestinian Leaders to Protect Civilians

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Biden calls for protection of civilians and journalists in calls with Israel and Palestinian leaders.

Journalists in the rubble of the Jala Tower in Gaza City, home to offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, which was destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Saturday.Credit…Hosam Salem for The New York Times

May 15, 2021, 3:38 p.m. ET

President Biden urged the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to avoid additional deaths of children and other civilians in the escalating conflict on separate calls on Saturday and also affirmed his commitment to a two-state solution to bring peace in Jerusalem and elsewhere across Israel and the occupied territories.

Speaking to President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinians’ leader, Mr. Biden demanded that Hamas militants stop firing rockets into Israel. Speaking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, he maintained Israel’s right to defend itself from the militant group based in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Biden also raised concerns with Mr. Netanyahu about the safety and security of journalists in the conflict after Israeli forces targeted a building in Gaza that housed international reporters and other news crews in Gaza. He “reinforced the need to ensure their protection,” said a White House statement describing the conversation between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu.

In both calls, according to the White House statements, Mr. Biden said the Palestinian people deserved greater security, freedoms and economic opportunities, and signaled that a two-state solution was the best pathway toward doing so. He also updated both Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas on ongoing diplomatic talks among officials from the United States and in the Middle East to negotiate a cease-fire in the current conflict, the worst in at least seven years.

Speaking to Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Biden cited a “grave concern” about intercommunal violence across Israel and “welcomed the statements by the prime minister and other leaders opposing such hateful acts and encouraged continued steps to hold violent extremists accountable and to establish calm,” the White House statement said.

He also reminded Mr. Abbas that the United States had committed to restoring hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Palestinians through a United Nations aid agency. The aid was halted during the Trump administration.

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