President Biden gave brief remarks Thursday night after the Israeli government said itin its conflict with Hamas. More than 200 Palestinians and 12 Israelis have been killed in some of the worst fighting in the region.
Up to this point, the president has said little publicly about the Israeli-Hamas conflict. But behind the scenes, the U.S. and other countries have been increasing the pressure on Israel to stop its bombing of the Palestinians in Gaza. Mr. Biden has been in frequent contact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with the Palestinian Authority.
"I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy," the president said. "My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that end."
The president said he's talked with Netanyahu six times over the last 11 days and has also spoken with the president of the Palestinian Authority.
"We've held intensive high level discussions — hour by hour, literally — [with] Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and other Middle Eastern countries — in the name of avoiding the sort of prolonged conflict we have seen in previous years when the hostilities have broken out," Mr. Biden said.
More than 2 million Palestinians live in a 140-square mile of the Gaza Strip, where Israeli airstrikes have lit up the skyline for 11 days, causing extensive destruction on the ground. The Gaza Health Ministry said on Thursday that the bombing campaign had killed 230, with 65 children among the dead.
Israel said Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel in recent days. Israel'sstopped most of the incoming rockets in mid-air, but some struck homes and neighborhoods.