The crisis in Gaza has entered its second week of fighting, with the death toll in Gaza as of Monday topping 200 from unrelenting Israeli airstrikes, and in Israel ten civilians have been killed due to Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket fire. Under mounting criticism for lack of any significant diplomatic action coming out of Washington, the White House for the first time has issued a statement in support of a ceasefire.
In a Monday phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Biden first relayed the usual support of “Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks,” while also urging every effort on the part of Israel’s military to protect civilians. According to the readout, “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.”
BREAKING: US Prez Biden 📞 #Israel’s Netanyahu and announces support for “A Ceasefire” in fighting vs Hamas.
First US call for ceasefire since fighting started > 7 days ago: pic.twitter.com/q2RVaGpNwx
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) May 17, 2021
According to late Monday reports from the Times of Israel, a diplomatic source “familiar with the efforts to broker a ceasefire” says that “we’re close” and that something firm is likely to be reached in “two days maximum.”
The statement comes after Blinken earlier referenced a “quiet” initiative going on behind the scenes for a ceasefire, typically done with Egypt taking a central role in talking to Hamas. The Associated Press detailed:
Speaking in Copenhagen, where he was making an unrelated tour of Nordic countries, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken ticked off other, quieter U.S. outreach so far to try to de-escalate hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel, and said he would be making more calls Monday.
“In all of these engagements we have made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices to the parties should they seek a cease-fire,” Blinken said.
The clock is ticking given that late Monday there was another incident along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Many have feared that a huge, disastrous escalation is possible if Hezbollah opens up a new front, which is thought unlikely at this point.
6 rockets were just fired from Lebanon toward northern Israel, all of which fell inside Lebanon.
In response, our artillery forces fired toward the sources of the launches.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 17, 2021
For the second time in days projectiles have been fired toward Israel from southern Lebanon by unknown entities, with the Israeli military confirming six rockets were fired but failed to make it across the border.
The army responded by shelling areas that it said was the source of the firing – which sets up the possibility or likelihood of further retaliation from militants in southern Lebanon. The region is certainly a Hezbollah stronghold, but multiple Palestinian militant groups have long operated from there as well.
Meanwhile the violence looks to continue, with little that’s firm regarding “closeness” to reaching a ceasefire agreement actually on the horizon…
BREAKING: Netanyahu told Biden in their call he want to complete all the goals of the Gaza operation, PM office said
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) May 17, 2021
Via Zero Hedge