Biden calls Netanyahu, says Israel ‘has right to defend itself’ against Hamas rockets

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President Biden on Wednesday spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm US support for Israel after a night of bloodshed with civilians in Tel Aviv sheltering from Hamas rockets.

“I had a conversation with Bibi Netanyahu not so long ago. I’ll be putting out a statement very shortly on that,” Biden told reporters at the White House.

“My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself against thousands of rockets flying into your territory.”

Israel has launched airstrikes against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to target what it says are caches of rockets stored by the Islamist group close to where civilians live.

Both sides in the conflict have reported civilian casualties.

Biden told reporters that “my national security staff and defense staff has been in constant contact with their counterparts in the Middle East — not just with the Israelis but also with everyone from the Egyptians to the Saudis to the Emiratis, etc.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke separately with Netanyahu to reaffirm US support. 

The State Department said that Blinken “expressed his concerns regarding the barrage of rocket attacks on Israel, his condolences for the lives lost as a result, and the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.”

“[Blinken] emphasized the need for Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in safety and security, as well as enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy,” the State Department said.

Israel was able to shoot down many rockets from Gaza using the US-subsidized Iron Dome missile defense system.

Former President Donald Trump, who is considering a rematch against Biden in 2024, faulted Biden for the violence that began with clashes in Jerusalem, saying it happened as a result of “Biden’s weakness and lack of support for Israel.”

The Trump administration recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and moved the US embassy to Jerusalem following a decades-long reluctance due to Arab claims to the city. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner led an effort that brokered diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries.

“When I was in office we were known as the Peace Presidency, because Israel’s adversaries knew that the United States stood strongly with Israel and there would be swift retribution if Israel was attacked,” Trump said.

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