President Joe Biden reiterated U.S. efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating into a regional war and to safeguard civilians’ access to vital resources, according to readouts of separate calls with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Saturday.
Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that all countries must “condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization that does not represent the aspirations of the Palestinian people,” while reiterating U.S. support for Israel.
Biden’s call with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was the first between the two since Hamas’ attack last week, while his conversation with Netanyahu was their fifth such call.
“President Biden condemned Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel and reiterated that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination,” said the White House readout of the call with Abbas, adding that Biden offered Abbas and the Palestinian Authority his full support for humanitarian efforts in Gaza.
The president spoke to both leaders about coordination with the United Nations, Egypt, Jordan and other countries in the region to ensure access to water, food and medical care for all civilians.
In both calls, Biden emphasized the need to prevent the conflict from expanding, reflecting widespread concern that other parties such as Iran, which has backed Hamas, or Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group also backed by Iran, might jump into the war.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who visited Israel on Friday, also spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant on Saturday to discuss humanitarian concerns and the possibility of the conflict widening, according to a readout of their call.
Austin raised the “importance of adhering to the law of war” and abiding by civilian protection obligations, and noted the need to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The defense secretary also told Gallant that “posture increases in the region are intended to make clear his commitment to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war.”
Meanwhile, the top U.S. diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, had a “productive” one-hour telephone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
“Our message was that he thinks it’s in our shared interest to stop the conflict from spreading,” Miller told reporters on Blinken’s plane from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi.
“He thought it could be useful if China could use its influence,” Miller added.
The two countries noted the importance of maintaining open channels of communication amid any escalation, according to a U.S. readout of the call.
Later Saturday, Biden was interrupted by a protester who shouted “Let Gaza live, ceasefire now” as the spoke at the Human Rights Campaign national dinner in Washington, D.C. The president said he could not hear what the protester was saying, and carried on with his remarks.
Biden further said most people living in Gaza are “innocent Palestinian families, who want nothing to do with Hamas.”
Decrying the violence, he added: “We are seeing the worst massacre of Jewish people since the Holocaust. We’re seeing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”
Phelim Kine contributed to this report.
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