United States President Joe Biden has called for “accelerating” humanitarian assistance to Gaza in phone calls with the leaders of Egypt and Israel, the White House said.
Biden spoke with the two leaders separately on Sunday and they discussed different aspects of the conflict in Palestine as Israel continues to pound Gaza, according to the White House.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
During the call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the two “committed to the significant acceleration and increase of assistance flowing into Gaza beginning today and then continuously”, the White House said.
Humanitarian aid has trickled into Gaza through the Rafah crossing run by Egypt, the only crossing not controlled by Israel. However, the UN and others have said the current amount of aid is woefully inadequate in answering the needs of the 2.3 million Palestinians in the enclave.
As Egypt remains concerned about the fate of Palestinians who may wish to flee Gaza, the White House said that “ensuring that Palestinians in Gaza are not displaced to Egypt or any other nation” was also on the agenda.
El-Sisi has repeatedly said that Palestinians should not move away from their ancestral lands in order for them to be able to achieve a longstanding dream of nationhood.
To Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said Israel has “every right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism” but he added that this needs to happen “in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritises protection of civilians”.
Biden also “underscored the need to immediately and significantly increase the flow of humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of civilians in Gaza”, the White House said.
More than 8,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed by Israeli air attacks since it began hitting the besieged enclave after a surprise attack by Hamas on October 7 killed about 1,400 Israelis.
Gaza earlier this week experienced a near-total communication blackout but some internet and mobile connection has since been restored. The enclave is also running dangerously low on fuel, food, water and medicine.
Israel has also launched ground operations into Gaza, which have gradually intensified in the past few days. Fighting is ongoing on the ground with Palestinian armed groups including Hamas.
On Sunday, the Israeli military also said that its call two weeks ago for Palestinians to evacuate northern Gaza – which the United Nations and rights groups have heavily criticised – is now “urgent”.
According to the White House, Biden and Netanyahu on Sunday also discussed efforts to secure the release of captives taken by Hamas and other groups.
Israel said on Sunday it has confirmed 239 captives are being held in Gaza.