Biden tells Netanyahu to avoid civilian targets, slams retaliatory rockets as ‘terrorism’

Combo image of US President Joe Biden and the Israeli regime’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File photo)

US President Biden has reportedly called Israeli regime’s hawkish prime minister, raising concerns about rising civilian deaths in Gaza and the bombing of a building housing news agencies while censuring retaliatory rockets fired from the Israeli-besieged enclave as “terrorism.”

Biden further "reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza," US-based Axios news outlet reported Saturday citing “a White House readout of the call.”

"He expressed his support for steps to enable the Palestinian people to enjoy the dignity, security, freedom, and economic opportunity that they deserve and affirmed his support for a two-state solution," according to the White House readout which, as usual, did not mention anything about the Palestinian right to self-defense.

The development came a day after White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki avoided a reporter's inquiry on whether Biden believes Palestinians also have a right to self-defense in face of the Israeli regime’s indiscriminate bombings of their neighborhoods in Gaza.

"We've heard repeatedly with respect to the statements about violence in Israel that Israel has a legitimate right to self-defense but we're not hearing about the Palestinians right to self-defense. Why is that and does the president believe that Palestinians have a right to self-defense," the reporter asked.

Psaki’s response to the question was not a simple "yes" or "no" answer. Instead, she totally sidestepped the question by only saying the US “is working to de-escalate and try to reduce in the region.”

The report further cited Palestinian officials and the White House as saying that Biden also spoke to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time since assuming office, insisting on the need for the Hamas resistance movement to halt its retaliatory rocket launches at Israeli-occupied territories.

"President Biden updated President Abbas on US diplomatic engagement on the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel," said the White House readout of Biden’s conversation with Abbas.

The call came after the Palestinian Authority criticized Washington’s position on the Gaza situation on Friday and called on the Biden administration to intervene.

"The silence by the Biden administration about what Israel is doing and the claim it is self-defense led to massacres in Gaza and the West Bank. We ask the US to take action because it is the only party in the world who can stop Israeli aggression," Abbas's spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh asserted in a statement.

The report further cited “Israeli officials” as saying that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also called his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz, to voice concerns about the targeting of civilians in Gaza, with Gantz claiming in response that the regime is doing everything it can to avoid hitting civilians.

According to the report, Netanyahu’s office also issued a statement about his conversation with Biden, saying he told the US president that “Israel is doing the utmost to avoid targeting civilians.”

Netanyahu further claimed that the bombed-out building holding media offices in Gaza also housed Hamas military facilities, adding that occupants of the building had been warned prior to the bombing.

The US-based Associated Press and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera -- whose offices were also blown-out in Saturday's airstrikes against the impoverished Gaza – as well as press freedom groups strongly condemned the Israeli regime’s bombing of the high-rise building.

At least 139 Palestinians, including 39 children and 22 women, have been killed and about 1,000 others injured in Gaza in the Israeli regime's latest round of aggression that began on Monday.

The United Nation said on Friday that it estimates some 10,000 Palestinians have had to abandon their homes in Gaza “due to the ongoing hostilities” amid an Israeli offensive.

Hamas’ military wing has vowed to continue to fire retaliatory rockets at central Israeli-occupied territories after the Israeli military destroyed Al Jalaa tower in Gaza, which housed a number of media outlets.

“After the bombing of the civilian tower in Gaza, residents of Tel Aviv and the center must be on standby,” Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said on Saturday.

The Palestinian resistance group continued to fire rockets at Israeli-occupied towns near the Gaza border, with warning sirens ringing out in Sderot, Kibbutz Nahal Oz, and Kerem Shalom.

Al-Qassam Brigades announced earlier that they had fired tens of rockets at Sderot and Fijeh and Kissufim military camps. They also targeted Kerem Shalom site with a number of heavy mortar shells and Badr-1 rockets.

Rocket warning sirens were heard in numerous southern Israeli-occupied territories as well.

All settlers of Eshkol region were instructed to enter bomb shelters until instructed otherwise, as Palestinian resistance’s rockets continued to target southern Israeli occupied territories.

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