Israel vows to continue strikes despite Biden’s call for truce

Published May 20, 2021
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a briefing to ambassadors to Israel at a military base in Tel Aviv on May 19. — Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a briefing to ambassadors to Israel at a military base in Tel Aviv on May 19. — Reuters

GAZA CITY: While US President Joe Biden told Israel that he expects a “significant” reduction in the military confrontation with Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he was determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.

“The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a statement released after what the White House said was the two leaders’ fourth call since the crisis began.

The statement marked a sharpening of public tone from the White House toward the close US ally. It was Biden’s toughest public pressure so far on Israel, as pressure has been mounting on Biden, too, to do more as the death toll in the Palestine conflict has topped 200.

Foreign ministers from three European countries expected to arrive in Israel today

Responding to the Biden statement, Netanyahu said he greatly appreciated the support of the American president, but said Israel would push ahead to “return the calm and security to you, citizens of Israel”.

“To express their solidarity and support for Israel during its campaign against Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip”, foreign ministers from Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia would arrive in Israel on Thursday, the Israeli foreign ministry said, explaining that the diplomats had been invited by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

The German foreign ministry has confirmed that the nation’s top diplomat would make a one-day trip to Israel and the West Bank on Thursday for talks with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials. The ministry said that Foreign Minister Heiko Maas would meet the Israeli foreign and defense ministers as well as President Reuven Rivlin. He would also meet the Palestinian prime minister in Ramallah, the statement added.

While the Egyptian ceasefire offer was also rejected by Israel, an Egyptian diplomat said some of the country’s top officials expect amendments to their proposal. He said they hope France increasing efforts could spur the US to exert its influence on Israel and PM Netanyahu to agree to stop the fighting as soon as possible.

He added that if that didn’t happen, there are some discussions among Arab and Islamic nations, along with China, to put the issue before the UN General Assembly in an effort to bypass the Security Council and the US veto power there.

In his televised speech on Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed Arab delegates, calling Jerusalem the “essence of the Palestinian national identity”.

Abbas said Israel was carrying out organized state terrorism and war crimes in Gaza that are punishable under international law. He said the Palestinians would not hesitate to pursue those who committed such crimes in front of international courts.

The Arab League Parliament also convened an extraordinary meeting in Cairo to express solidarity with the Palestinians and condemn Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip. Those in attendance at the meeting on Wednesday wore traditional Palestinian black-and-white scarves in a sign of support.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2021

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