Joe Biden calls for Israel-Gaza ceasefire in call with Netanyahu on eighth day of fighting

18 May 2021, 06:53 | Updated: 18 May 2021, 14:38

Joe Biden has made a fresh call for an Israel-Gaza ceasefire
Joe Biden has made a fresh call for an Israel-Gaza ceasefire. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

US President Joe Biden has called for an Israel-Gaza ceasefire during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House said the US leader expressed "support" for an end to hostilities as violence between the two sides entered its eighth day.

His message signals Washington's concern for an end to Israel's part in hostilities with Hamas, however it falls short of joining growing Democratic demands for an immediate ceasefire.

It comes after the Middle Eastern nation unleashed a wave of heavy airstrikes on Palestine's Gaza Strip on Monday.

Israel said it destroyed nine miles of militant tunnels and the homes of nine alleged Hamas commanders.

The latest attacks killed a local Gaza leader, according to the Israeli military, which blamed him for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israel.

Read more: Bombing continues in Gaza as Israeli PM vows Hamas will pay 'heavy price'

Read more: At least 76 Palestinian casualties after series of Israeli airstrikes

Gaza residents, who were awakened by the overnight bombing, described it as the heaviest since the war began a week ago and even more powerful than a wave of airstrikes in the city the day before that left 42 dead and flattened three buildings.

It is not clear how many casualties there were following the latest barrage, however a three-storey building in the territory was heavily damaged. Residents said the military warned them 10 minutes before the strike so everyone could leave.

Gaza's mayor Yahya Sarraj told Al-Jazeera TV that the airstrikes had caused extensive damage to roads and other infrastructure.

He said: "If the aggression continues we expect conditions to become worse."

In a televised address on Sunday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his military's attacks were continuing at "full-force" and would "take time" as the country "wants to levy a heavy price" on the Hamas militant group.

Read more: Israeli airstrike destroys Gaza tower block HQ of international media outlets

Read more: '100,000' protesters march through London in Free Palestine demonstration

Meanwhile, Downing Street said on Monday that Israeli airstrikes on schools, homes and media offices are deeply concerning.

No10 added that it was seeking answers from Israel about attacks that destroyed the building housing the Associated Press and other media organisations in Gaza.

However, Boris Johnson's official spokesman also expressed concern about Hamas using human shields to cover its operations.

In Westminster, the PM's official spokesman said: "We are deeply concerned by UN reports that more than 23 schools and 500 homes as well as medical facilities and media offices have been destroyed or seriously damaged in Gaza.

"Israel has a legitimate right to defend its citizens from attack but in doing so it must make every effort to avoid civilian casualties and military action must be proportionate and in line with international humanitarian law.

"We are also concerned by reports that Hamas is again using civilian infrastructure and populations as cover for its operations."

Israel and Palestine's latest crisis began last Monday when Hamas fired long-range rockets at Jerusalem after weeks of clashes in the Holy City between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police.

The protests were focused on the heavy-handed policing of a flashpoint holy site during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

Since then, the Israeli military has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says are targeting Hamas' militant infrastructure.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired more than 3,100 rockets into Israel.

At least 200 Palestinians have been killed in hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,300 people wounded.

Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a five-year-old boy and a soldier.