A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe is adding pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza to halt their conflict before it turns into a war entangling more of the Middle East.
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza and the barrage of rocket fire by Hamas into Israel eased overnight on Thursday as senior officials on both sides privately expressed optimism that a cease-fire agreement could come by the weekend.
President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden spoke with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, whose nation has acted as an intermediary in the negotiations.
France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu, have intensified their push for a cease-fire as the humanitarian situation for the two million people living in the Gaza Strip has grown more dire by the day.
French diplomats have sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.
At a special meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Secretary General António Guterres called for a halt to the bloodshed and destruction. “The fighting must stop immediately,” he said. “I appeal to all parties to cease hostilities, now and I reiterate my call on all sides for an immediate cease-fire.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, met with Mr. Netanyahu on Thursday and also pressed for peace.
Israel’s Gaza bombardment has killed at least 227 people, including 64 children. In Israel, 12 people have been killed by Hamas rockets.
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