Joe Biden told Benjamin Netanyahu that he expects “a significant de-escalation today on the road to a ceasefire” between Israel and the militants in Gaza.
The White House said in a phone call Wednesday, “the two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements. , and the ongoing diplomatic efforts of regional governments and the United States. “
He added: “The President has informed the Prime Minister that he expects a significant de-escalation today on the road to a ceasefire. “
Both parties to the conflict earlier denied that a truce was imminent. Israeli media speculated that a ceasefire could be in effect as early as Thursday morning, but Izzat al-Rishak, a senior Hamas official, said there was no agreement.
Israeli officials also rejected the suggested timeline, and Netanyahu told foreign diplomats there was no time frame for a truce.
“We are not standing with a stopwatch,” he said at a briefing in Tel Aviv. “What we’re trying to do is … degrade their capabilities, their terrorist capabilities and degrade their will.”
IDF Radio reported that the security cabinet was due to meet within the next 24 hours to discuss a possible end to the nine-day conflict, in which more than 200 Palestinians and 12 people in Israel were killed. .
The number of missiles fired by both sides declined for some time on Wednesday morning, raising hopes of an imminent end to the conflict. No rockets were fired from Gaza for several hours. But three mortar shells were subsequently fired at the Kerem Shalom border post while a shipment of humanitarian aid and medical supplies sent by Jordan was in transit. Israeli officials halted the shipment until further notice.
Israeli officials said it was the second time in 24 hours that Hamas had fired on humanitarian and medical aid shipments entering Gaza.
Israeli jets continued to hammer what officials say is a vast network of tunnels under central Gaza used by Hamas to move fighters and weapons. The Al-Rimal neighborhood was also targeted and residents reported that several houses had been destroyed. Israel claimed to have twice tried to kill Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif, but the elusive leader – who had already escaped numerous other assassination attempts – escaped.
The intensive pre-dawn strikes marked the third round of attempted tunnel destruction, which Israeli military commanders said were at the heart of Hamas’ campaign, in which nearly 3,500 rockets were fired at. Israel since the beginning of the fighting.
The Israeli army shelled an area across the country’s northern border with Lebanon from which four rockets were fired. The Israel Defense Forces said the artillery was hitting “a number of targets in Lebanese territory”.
On the diplomatic front, Egypt, Qatar and the UN are trying to play a mediating role between the two parties, and France has called for a UN Security Council resolution on the violence.
In a joint statement, France, Egypt and Jordan said they “called on the parties to immediately agree to a ceasefire.” They said they would work with the UN and other partners to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.
A French government spokesperson said “very intense discussions” were underway with the United States over a resolution.
Washington has repeatedly blocked efforts by the UN Security Council to draft joint statements calling for an end to the fighting, saying it would not help diplomatic efforts to reduce the conflict. However, Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said Washington was engaged in “silent and intensive diplomacy.”
The British government is “fully committed” to trying to achieve a ceasefire and reduce tensions in the region, Foreign Minister James Cleverly told Parliament. He condemned “acts of terrorism by Hamas and other terrorist groups”, saying there was “no justification for targeting civilians”. Israel had a “legitimate right to self-defense” but “it is vital that all actions be proportionate,” he said.
In a televised address, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, accused Israel of carrying out “organized state terrorism and war crimes” in Gaza. Palestinians “will not hesitate to prosecute those who commit such crimes in international courts,” he said.
Israel said an explosion that killed eight members of a Palestinian family on the first day of fighting last week was caused by a failed rocket from Gaza, not an Israeli airstrike.
A senior officer, speaking anonymously on Wednesday, said an investigation concluded that Israel did not strike the area of Beit Hanoun where family members were killed that night. The officer added that one in five rockets launched by militants landed inside Gaza.
An Israeli airstrike on Tuesday destroyed Gaza’s only laboratory that processes Covid tests.