President Biden on Thursday endorsed an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas — while vowing the US would help rebuild Gaza and restock Israel’s missile defense system.
Biden condemned the militant group Hamas and said he spoke six times during the two-week conflict with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — two times more than was publicly known.
“We remain committed to work with the United Nations and other international stakeholders to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for the people of Gaza and the Gaza reconstruction efforts,” Biden said in a speech from the White House.
“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority — not Hamas, the Authority — in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.”
Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has governed Gaza since winning a 2007 Palestinian civil war against the less-radical leadership of the Palestinian Authority.
Biden also said the US would help replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which shot down many rockets fired from Gaza.
“I extend my sincere gratitude to President el-Sisi and the senior Egyptian officials who plays such a critical role in this diplomacy,” Biden said.
“These hostilities have resulted in a tragic test of so many civilians, including children, and I send my sincere condolences to all the families, Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost loved ones and my hope for a full recovery for the wounded.”
Biden’s public remarks on the conflict evolved with time. At first, he expressed firm support last week for Israel’s airstrikes in response to a barrage of Hamas rockets. But on Wednesday, he spoke with Netanyahu to press Israel to immediately begin “significant de-escalation.” Netanyahu publicly rebuffed Biden and said, “I am determined to continue this operation until its goal is achieved.”
Some Republican critics slammed Biden for pressuring Israel to abandon the military campaign, arguing that Israel had a right to combat the US-designated terrorist group.
Both sides in the conflict reported civilian casualties, but Hamas reported greater numbers of death and injured people in the poor and crowded Gaza Strip.
Biden spoke with Egyptian President Sisi on Thursday for the first time since fighting broke out. Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday called Jordanian King Abdullah II.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was put on the defensive at her daily press briefing Thursday when NBC News reporter Kristen Welker asked if Biden’s delay in phoning Sisi may have extended the conflict.
Biden said Thursday while remarking on the ceasefire: “The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks on Hamas and other Gaza based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.”
Hamas launched missiles into Israel after clashes in Jerusalem over an Israeli court decision that ordered the eviction of Palestinian tenants who stopped paying rent in East Jerusalem. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza.