Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he would continue military strikes against Hamas militants in Gaza after U.S. President Joe Biden called on him to de-escalate the violence.
A White House spokesperson said Biden told Netanyahu in a phone call that he expected "a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” Biden’s strongest words yet on the need to end the fighting.
But shortly after the White House's remarks, Netanyahu released a statement that, "I am determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved."
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, the Israeli leader seemed to believe only overwhelming military force against Hamas would ensure Israeli security
"There are only two ways that you can deal with them. You can either conquer them, and that's always an open possibility, or you can deter them and we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence. But I have to say we don't rule out anything."
Palestinian medical officials said 219 people have been killed in 10 days of aerial bombardments.
Israeli authorities put that nation's death toll at 12 from Hamas rocket fire aimed at southern Israel.
Biden’s desire for calm and Netanyahu’s apparent determination to continue the fight may mask behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
An Egyptian security source said Israel and Palestinian militants had agreed in principle to a ceasefire after help from mediators, adding that details were still being negotiated in secret.
Biden has publicly defended Israel’s right to defend itself.
But he has privately pressed for a ceasefire. His aides have said they are aggressively pursuing behind-the-scenes diplomacy to bring the conflict to an end.
That is not enough for some Democrats, who want him to take a more active and public role.
On a visit to Detroit on Tuesday, the president was met by members of the Arab-American community waving Palestinian flags and demanding Biden ramp up pressure Israel to halt its bombing.
In a nod to the Palestinians' plight, Biden acknowledged U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, who has relatives living under Israeli occupation.
"I admire your concern for so many other people. And it's from my heart, I pray that your grandmom and family are well. I promise you I'm going to do everything to see that they are on the West Bank. You're a fighter. And God, thank you for being a fighter."
According to a Tlaib ally, the Congresswoman told the president, "Palestinian human rights are not a bargaining chip and must be protected, not negotiated."