A member of the Palestinian Civil Protection walks in the middle of the ruins of a building in the city of Gaza where the Intaj Bank was located, connected to the Hamas movement that controls the Gaza Strip, on May 15, 2021.
Mahmud Hams | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday as violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip escalated, with no indication that it would end any time soon.
Separately, Netanyahu, after a call with Biden, suggested on television late Saturday local time that the Israeli operation would continue until it achieved its goals.
“Our goal is to send a message to Hamas that it is not worth sending rockets the next time it wants to,” he said. “We will deal with them and no one should take the law into their own hands.”
During a phone call with Netanyahu, Biden reiterated his support for Israel’s right to self-defense against rocket attacks by the Hamas militant group in Gaza and condemned the attacks in Israeli cities and towns, according to a text released by the White House.
“The president noted that this current period of conflict has tragically taken the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children,” the statement said. “He expressed concern for the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection.”
Netanyahu told Biden that Israel was “doing everything not to harm” those not affiliated with Hamas and that “those not involved” had been evacuated from a 12-story building in the Gaza Strip that housed the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Three Israeli heavy rockets demolished the building on Saturday.
The president also spoke with Abbas about tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank and their common interest in making Jerusalem “a place of peaceful coexistence for people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
“The president also stressed his strong commitment to a negotiated solution between the two countries as the best way to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the call said.
The extraordinary fire in Israel and the Gaza Strip developed into an urgent early test for Biden’s foreign policy. The president worked part-time at the Oval Office on Saturday. On weekends, he usually works from Camp David or his home state of Delaware.
The news of the destruction of the media office caused international outrage and shock, forcing the White House to respond before publishing the Biden reading.
U.S. President Joe Biden talks about the response to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the White House Rose Garden vaccination program in Washington, May 13, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The Biden administration “told Israelis directly that ensuring the safety of journalists and independent media is the most important responsibility,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a tweet on Saturday.
The Associated Press president said in a statement Saturday that a dozen AP reporters and freelancers evacuated the building before the strike, but the “terrible loss of life” was narrowly avoided even with Israel’s prior warning that the building would be hit.
“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military will target and destroy the building that houses the AP office and other news organizations in Gaza,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said. “They have known for a long time where our office is and they knew there were journalists there. We received a warning that the building would be hit.”
“This is an incredibly disturbing development,” Pruitt said of the airstrike.
The director general of Al Jazeera accused Israel of trying to silence the media and condemned the air strike as a war crime, calling on the international community to hold Israel accountable.
“The destruction of the Al Jazeera office and other media organizations in the al-Jalaa tower in Gaza is an obvious violation of human rights and is internationally considered a war crime,” said Dr. Mostefa Souag, Acting General Manager of Al Jazeera Media Network. ,, in an article published on the news agency’s website.
“We call on the international community to condemn such barbaric actions and targeting of journalists and demand urgent international action to hold Israel accountable for its deliberate targeting of journalists and media institutions,” Souag said.
“The goal of this heinous crime is to silence the media and hide the untold massacres and suffering of the people in Gaza,” Souag said.
At least 139 people were killed in Gaza, including 39 children. And in Israel, eight people were killed as the escalation of the conflict.
Senator Bob Menendez, DN.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement on Saturday called for “full accounting of actions that led to the civilian death and destruction of the media.”
“All political and military leaders have a responsibility to abide by the rules and laws of war, and it is of the utmost importance for all actors to find ways to de-escalate and reduce tensions,” he said. “This violence must stop.”
– Reuters and the Associated Press gave reports