Bibi defies Biden, vows more strikes
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Wednesday to press ahead with a fierce military offensive in the Gaza Strip, pushing back against calls from US President Joe Biden to wind down the operation that has left hundreds dead.
Netanyahu’s tough comments marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began last week and could complicate international efforts to reach a ceasefire.
Israel continued to pound targets in Gaza with airstrikes, while Palestinian militants bombarded Israel with rocket fire throughout the day. In another sign of potential escalation, militants in Lebanon fired a rocket barrage into northern Israel.
After a visit to military headquarters, Netanyahu said he appreciated “the support of the American president”, but he said Israel would push ahead to return “calm and security” to Israeli citizens. He said he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met”.
Earlier on Wednesday, Biden told Netanyahu he “expected significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire” in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, setting a deadline amid growing calls for an end to hostilities.
The fourth call in a week between the two leaders came after Netanyahu, fondly referred to as “Bibi”, was quoted by the Israeli media as saying he is not setting a time frame for an end to the hostilities.
“The [US] president conveyed to the [Israeli] prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” the White House said in a readout of their call.
US may veto French draft resolution on ceasefire
A US spokesperson said Washington won’t support a UN Security Council draft resolution proposed by France calling for a ceasefire, saying it may undermine efforts at de-escalation.
Israel said earlier that it was not setting a time frame for an end to hostilities with Gaza as its military pounded the Palestinian enclave with airstrikes and Hamas militants unleashed new cross-border rocket attacks.
In a 25-minute attack overnight, Israel bombarded targets including what its military said were tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip used by Hamas. Some 50 rockets were fired from the enclave, the Israeli military said, with sirens sounding in the coastal city of Ashdod.
With inputs from agencies