Biden Phones Netanyahu: Doesn’t Condemn Attack

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update (4:10pm): According to the White House readout of Biden’s Saturday call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president “reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza,” while condemning the “indiscriminate attacks” coming from the Gaza Strip.

He merely “raised concerns” about the “safety and security of journalists” – and glaringly absent was any specific mention in the call readout of the intentional targeting of the media building which was hit by a reported six airstrikes earlier in the day, causing it to be flattened.

According to Axios in the call with Netanyahu Biden stopped short of an outright condemnation of the attack, but merely “raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.”

The opening section from the White House statement on the call is as follows:

The President spoke today with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The President reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. He condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel. The President updated the Prime Minister on high-level U.S. engagement with regional partners on this issue and discussed ongoing diplomatic efforts. The President noted that this current period of conflict has tragically claimed the lives of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, including children. He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection.

Biden also phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian officials confirmed, which marks a first during his administration. Axios details the call as follows:

  • “President Biden updated President Abbas on U.S. diplomatic engagement on the ongoing conflict and stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel,” a White House readout of the called said.
  • The Palestinian Authority on Friday criticized the U.S. position on the Gaza crisis and called the Biden administration to intervene.

And further, Abbas’s spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, was quoted in a statement:

 “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 U.S. to take action because it is the only party in the world who can stop Israeli aggression.”

Meanwhile, more and more protests are popping up across Europe – and some in the United States – expressing solidarity with Palestinians. “Protesters gathered in London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris as the worst violence in years raged between Israel and militants in Gaza,” AFP and others observed.

The death toll continues to climb into the night Saturday, with regional media counting at least 145 deaths in Gaza from the airstrikes.

In Israel, at least eleven have been killed by the continuing onslaught of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket fire. Amid increased international condemnation for the appalling civilian death toll and especially high number of children killed and wounded, Netanyahu’s office released a statement placing blame squarely on Hamas for the casualties

After the reported death of a family of 10 in an Israeli strike in Gaza this morning, eight of them children, the prime minister’s Arab-language spokesman blames Hamas, Channel 12 reports.

“Hamas bears full blame for the deaths of civilians in Gaza,” he says in a statement. “It sought this escalation and started it when it attacked Jerusalem. It intentionally buried its rocket launchers and weapons caches and posts in the center of residential areas and this is a war crime. It attacks our citizens to kill as many of them as possible and that is another war crime.”

In the US, many are taking increasing notice of the apparent complete lack of any US plan or diplomatic intervention toward a ceasefire.

For now it seems the Biden White House is merely content to express “concerns” as the region burns.

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update (12:49pm): So far the Biden administration has stopped short of condemning the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza offices of US-based Associated Press and other international media outlets, which flattened the 12-story Al-Jalaa tower, resulting in widespread outrage from journalists and media rights organizations across the globe.

Hours after the attack Joe Biden as reportedly phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express Washington’s “concerns” and to convey the “paramount responsibility” to protect journalists.

This also as the death toll continues to soar amid unrelenting airstrikes – also as Hamas rockets continue to fly toward Israel – at over 140 Gazans killed since Monday.

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update (12:30pm): The White House has said it communicated its “concerns” to Israel over the safety of journalists after IDF airstrikes obliterated the 12-story office building that housed international media headquarters in Gaza, most notably the AP and Al Jazeera…

“We have communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility,” White House press secretary Psaki wrote.

AP CEO Gary Pruitt previously said in a statement: “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza. They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there. We received a warning that the building would be hit.”

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Israel has targeted yet another large office and residential tower in the Gaza Strip, but this time its warplanes have destroyed the 12-story building housing the media offices of the U.S.-based Associated Press and Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, the AP itself as well as Reuters eyewitnesses confirm.

The outlets have said that Israel issued advanced warning of the airstrikes of up to one hour before the attack on Al-Jalaa tower. Representatives with the AP and the building owner had reportedly pleaded with IDF officials to give more time to enable a safe evacuation and also to take out crucial media equipment.

However, eyewitnesses say they were not given extra time, but merely made it out with whatever they had in hand and with their own lives.

The building can be seen essentially collapsing in its own footprint, the same way that three prior residential apartment buildings did during days past. “The building was hit approximately six times before collapsing in plumes of black smoke, which engulfed the entire neighborhood,” international press reports noted.

“The strike on the high-rise came nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed Al-Jazeera, other offices and residential apartments. The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust,” AP writes.

“There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked,” AP adds.

The IDF in a later follow-up statement alleged the media offices contained Hamas military intelligence units…

The devastating attack brought swift condemnation by various international media organizations and advocates, with a number of prominent journalists expressing their shock, saying they “can’t believe” the media building was so blatantly targeted by Israel’s military.

AP president Gary Pruitt issued a statement saying “we are shocked and horrified” at the “incredibly disturbing” attack wherein “we narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life.” 

“Journalists who worked there had been reporting on the Israeli attacks on Gaza,” Al Jazeera said in a social media statement. “Targeting journalists is a war crime.”

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