By Asaf Shalev
In their fourth phone call since fighting in Gaza began 10 days ago, President Joe Biden pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to begin winding down the conflict immediately.
“The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a readout of the call published by the White House.
As the death toll in Gaza has reached 219, pressure is mounting on Israel to conclude its bombing campaign against Hamas and other militant groups that have been firing rockets at Israel.
Earlier Wednesday, Netanyahu seemed to reject the pressure, saying in a statement that the Israeli military would continue fighting until it subdued the threat. He also thanked Biden for supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.
A person briefed on the call between the two leaders told Axios that Biden was “firm” and that he made it clear he’s “done kidding around and Israel needs to finish it.”
Israel could not immediately decide on a ceasefire Wednesday because Netanyahu had chosen not to convene his Security Cabinet.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also stressed the need for de-escalation in calls with his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, according to Axios.