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Israel-Gaza war: Netanyahu rejects Biden’s calls for de-escalation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue his country’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, resisting calls from the US to move towards a cease-fire.

Mr. Netanyahu was responding Thursday to an appeal from US President Joe Biden, who told the Israeli leader “that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire”, according to the White House. 

In comments that marked the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began last week, Mr. Netanyahu said while he “greatly appreciates the support of the American President”, he was “determined to continue” the Gaza operation “until its objective is achieved”.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Wednesday that he expected “the ongoing efforts regarding the ceasefire to succeed”.

“I expect a ceasefire to be reached within a day or two, and the ceasefire will be on the basis of mutual agreement,” Mr. Abu Marzouk told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV.

An Egyptian security source said the sides had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators but details were still being negotiated in secret.

Asked on Israel’s Kan public radio if a ceasefire would begin on Friday, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said: “No. We are definitely seeing very significant international pressure … we will finish the operation when we decide we have attained our goals.”

Early Thursday, Israeli forces fired artillery at targets in Lebanon in response to four rockets being launched towards Israel from Lebanese territory, the Israeli military said.

Israel’s missile defences intercepted one of the projectiles from Lebanon and “the rest most likely fell in open areas”, the military said.

The rockets caused air raid sirens to blare in the northern Israeli city of Haifa and areas to the east.

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