US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone at length today to discuss the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza and efforts to release the remaining hostages held by terrorists in the enclave.
Channel 12 reports the call lasted about 45 minutes. It was the first conversation between the two leaders since Biden said Israel’s Gaza response was “over the top.”
The conversation focused on three issues, according to the report: Israel’s planned offensive in Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza, increasing the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians, and stalled hostage talks that could also include a pause in fighting.
According to a White House readout, Biden “reaffirmed our shared goal to see Hamas defeated and to ensure the long-term security of Israel and its people” and “discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas.”
Biden also “emphasized the need to capitalize on progress made in the negotiations to secure the release of all hostages as soon as possible” and called for urgent and specific steps to increase humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.
The White House says Biden reaffirmed his view that a military operation in Rafah should not proceed without a “credible and executable” plan to ensure the safety of over a million people sheltering in the city.
Netanyahu said in an interview earlier that Israel would go after Hamas in Rafah “while providing safe passage for the civilian population.”
Biden and Netanyahu agreed to remain in close contact, according to the readout.
CIA Director William Burns is expected in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with mediators on a potential truce. Israel has so far declined to send representatives, given Hamas’s “delusional” demands including a permanent ceasefire, a withdrawal of troops from Gaza, reconstruction of the enclave, and some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, including terror masterminds, in exchange for the remaining hostages.