Deadly violence intensifies in Gaza Strip and Israel as Biden urges de-escalation

President Joe Biden pauses while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, May 10, 2021.

Chris Kleponis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Thursday called for a de-escalation of violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip as attacks intensify and more people are killed.

The president told reporters in the White House that he expects to have additional conversations with leaders in the region.

Israeli ground forces have been bombing and sending troops and tanks to the Gaza border after Palestinian militants fired more rockets into Israel on Thursday.

At least 103 people have been killed, including 27 children, in Gaza in the past four days, according to Palestinian medical officials. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a soldier and some civilians, amid airstrikes and rocket attacks between the Israeli military and militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.

Israel said it is deploying troops to the Gaza frontier ahead of a potential ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory following four days of continued cross-border conflict. The increased military response has also followed violence among Arab and Jewish mobs in the streets of Israel this week, which led to dozens of arrests.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned in a televised speech that the escalating conflict has put Israel in two fighting campaigns — in Gaza and in Israel’s cities —and reiterated his promise to deploy military to combat violence in the cities.

“I again call on the citizens of Israel not to take the law into their own hands; whoever does so will be punished severely,” Netanyahu said. “We will act with full force against enemies from without and lawbreakers from within in order to restore calm to the state of Israel.”

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A ground troop invasion of Gaza has not yet been announced. Some world leaders and lawmakers have condemned the conflict and urged against violence they argued could escalate into an all-out war.

Israel President Reuven Rivlin urged against a “senseless civil war” amid unrest in towns and cities. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an “immediate de-escalation and cessation of hostilities” in the region.

“Too many innocent civilians have already died,” Guterres wrote in a tweet. “This conflict can only increase radicalization and extremism in the whole region.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee, urged a ceasefire in the region as quickly as possible to prevent more civilian deaths.

“Ground operations will not stop the rockets falling on Israel, or solve the fundamental security challenges that Israel faces,” Murphy said in a statement on Thursday. “Only a ceasefire in the short-term, and a real path to a viable two-state future in the long-term can do that.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. is sending Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, to urge Israelis and Palestinians to de-escalate the violence.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday also raised its travel advisory to Israel, citing armed conflict and civil unrest, and told people not to travel to Gaza due to Covid-19 and conflict.

— Reuters and Associated Press contributed reporting

(With Inputs from cnbc)

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