President Joe Biden stepped up the pressure on Israel to end 10 days of violent skirmishes with Palestinians, making clear in a call Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expected “significant de-escalation” by day’s end.
Biden asked Netanyahu to move “toward the path to a cease-fire,” according to a White House description of their conversation.
There is pressure, too, on Biden to do more, with more than 200 people killed in the fighting. Until Wednesday, Biden had avoided pushing the American ally more directly and publicly for a cease-fire or conveyed such a level of urgency for ending Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in the thickly populated Gaza Strip.
The Biden administration had relied on what officials described as “quiet, intensive” diplomacy, including quashing a U.N. Security Council statement that would have addressed a cease-fire. The administration’s handling opened a divide between Biden and Democratic lawmakers, dozens of whom have called for a cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes killed at least six people across the Gaza Strip and destroyed the home of an extended family early Wednesday. The military said it widened its strikes in the Palestinian territory’s south to blunt continuing rocket fire from Hamas, while a separate barrage also came from Lebanon.
For the third time since the war began, rockets were launched in Israel from the north. The Israeli military said one landed in an open area, two landed in the sea, and one was intercepted by aerial defenses. Lebanese security officials said the latest rockets were launched from the outskirts of the southern Lebanese village of Qlayleh, adding that four fell inside Lebanese territory. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In southern Gaza, meanwhile, residents surveyed the piles of bricks, concrete, and other debris that had once been the home of 40 members of the al-Astal family. They said a warning missile struck the building in the town of Khan Younis five minutes before the airstrike, allowing everyone to escape.