May 20 (UPI) — President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday and said he expects a quick de-escalation of military attacks against Palestinian targets in Gaza to make way for a cease-fire.
The call came two days after Biden last spoke with Netanyahu. On Monday, the U.S. president said Israel has a right to defend itself but called for a cessation of hostilities, encouraging Israel to make every effort to protect innocent civilians.
Wednesday’s call was more urgent.
“The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States,” the White House said.
“The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.”
Biden told Netanyahu in Monday’s call that Israel can defend the strikes for only so long.
In response to Wednesday’s call, Netanyahu said he’s “determined to continue” the strikes until their “objective is achieved — to bring back the quiet and security” to Israelis.
“With every day that passes, we strike more abilities of the terrorist organizations,” Netanyahu said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “We are thwarting more senior commanders, toppling more terrorist towers, striking more arms caches.”
Hostilities continued overnight Tuesday as Israeli attacks against Hamas targets entered its 10th day.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said Tuesday that 11 children between the ages of 5 and 15 that were participating in its trauma program in Gaza were killed in their homes by Israeli airstrikes.
Overall more than 220 people including more than 60 children in Gaza and 12 people, including two children in Israel, have been killed in what NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland described as a “maddening, crazy exchange of rockets and missiles.”
Karl Schembri, NRC’s regional media adviser told CNN the organization has dealt with children who experience “absolutely terrifying, violent nightmares, that make them unable to function.”
“The violence, there’s no escape from it. This is not like going to some frontline, which you can avoid. This is the frontline coming to your bedroom,” Schembri said.
The Israeli military said more than 50 warplanes hit the southern part of the Gaza Strip in fighting late Tuesday. Israel has targeted Hamas tunnels used to hide rockets and other weapons.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said attacks to destroy the tunnels will be expanded. The network of tunnels lie beneath heavily populated areas, and the bombings are killing civilians living in the buildings above them.
More than 50 Hamas rocket attacks were launched from Gaza on Tuesday, aimed at southern Israeli communities. Two workers from Thailand were killed in the attack, Israeli officials said.
A meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday failed to reach agreement on calling for a cease-fire, and France filed a draft resolution calling for an end to the violence.
The United States has also called for a cease-fire, but blocked attempts to issue a joint statement, saying that such a communique would not help de-escalate the conflict.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the United Nations, said the lack of a unified position by the Security Council is “shameful.”