After blocking UN statements, Biden privately calls for ceasefire in Gaza

The White House said Joe Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas on a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

US president Joe Biden has indicated his support for a ceasefire in the Middle East after weeks of uncertainty about the US administration’s policy towards the latest outbreak of rocket attacks between Israel and Hamas.

Three UN Security Council meetings had ended in stalemate after the United States blocked attempts to issue a joint statement calling for a ceasefire and condemning Israel’s response to attacks from Gaza.

Joe Biden’s White House had repeatedly stressed Israel’s right to defend itself, refusing to condemn the retaliatory attacks on Gaza.

According to a White House statement released last night, Mr Biden “encouraged Israel to make every effort to ensure the protection of innocent civilians”.

“The two leaders (Netanyahu and Biden) discussed progress in Israel’s military operations against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” it said.

President Biden “expressed his support for a ceasefire and discussed US engagement with Egypt and other partners towards that end.”

The latest statement indicating Biden’s support for a ceasefire comes after the death toll rose to 212 Palestinians and ten Israelis.

“Our calculation at this point is that having those conversations behind the scenes… is the most constructive approach we can take,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters when asked why the US had blocked UN efforts to issue a joint statement on the matter.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told an emergency meeting of the UN on Sunday that her country was “working tirelessly through diplomatic channels” to stop the attacks.

“The United States has made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a ceasefire,” she said.

Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney had expressed disappointment that the UN security council did not issue a joint statement on the conflict, or “even a call for a ceasefire”.

Mr Coveney, who would not be drawn on whether Israel were guilty of war crimes in Gaza, said Irish diplomats are “working hard to try to find a way to make progress”.

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