US President Joe Biden made his first phone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since taking office on Saturday, during intense fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestinian jihadist factions.
Biden has sent an ambassador to try to stop the bloodshed that has killed hundreds in Gaza and at least ten in Israel, but US, regional, and foreign efforts have yet to yield any results.
According to a White House review of the call, Biden “stressed the need for Hamas to cease firing rockets into Israel” and the two men “expressed their shared concern that innocent civilians, including children, have tragically lost their lives amidst the ongoing violence,”
Biden has emphasised the “U.S. commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Palestinian partnership” and his administration’s new move to restore assistance to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza, which had been cut under former President Donald Trump.
According to a transcript of the call published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Biden stated his opposition to the evacuation of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, though the White House account of the conversation did not address the situation.
A protracted court battle over the evictions exacerbated tensions in the holy city and sparked clashes between Israel and Gaza militants.
Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) has restricted self-rule in the occupied West Bank, which is part of the territories Israel won in the 1967 Middle East war, along with Gaza and East Jerusalem.
However, the PA has no sway over Gaza and its Islamist authorities, Hamas, which took possession of the Palestinian enclave in 2007 after a bloody split with Abbas’ Fatah faction.
The US believes Hamas to be a terrorist organisation and does not communicate with it.
According to some observers, Hamas seems to have seen the escalation with Israel as an opening to marginalise Abbas and present itself as the protector of Palestinians in Jerusalem, whose eastern sector they want for a future state.